I work at the edge of downtown Seattle. Every day I walk ten blocks through Seattle’s shopping district, to and from my bus stop to my office. Many evenings on my way home to catch my bus, I would pass one or more of those guys who stand on the sidewalk with binders and harass passersby into sponsoring a child from a third world country. I say harass, because they really do get in your face about it. They are polite, but you definitely know they are there.
Over several months, I began to encounter one of these gentlemen regularly, a guy with an anachronistic hat and quirky Irish brogue, who took to spinning his binder on his fingers like a Harlem Globetrotter. He’d come to recognize me over the weeks and months that he stood vigil, had come to recognize me and my regular denials. But he never gave up.
“Today!” he would occasionally call out to me as I passed. “Today’s the day.”
And I would call back, “Sorry, bro, I got nothin’ for ya.”
About this time (April of 2011), I began sending out query letters to literary agents about my recently completed supernatural Young Adult novel, Aftersight. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the task of researching agents and writing and rewriting my query letters took several hours each day. Yet very quickly something amazing happened. I began receiving rejections, yes, but now I was getting personal notes written back from the agents. I even had a few requests for partials. I felt momentum gathering.
“Today!” my Irish friend called out as I dodged by. “Today’s the day.”
I’d shrug, keep moving, but one day at the start of the summer I said to myself, The day I get an agent is the day I walk up to that guy and sponsor a child.
Now requests for the full manuscript began to come in. That July I attended AgentFest in New York (part of ITWA’s ThrillerFest), an opportunity to hang out in a room with 60+ agents and pitch my novel to them. By the end of July I had sent out nine full manuscripts and four partials to various agents in New York and points beyond.
I finally received The Call one evening shortly after I’d left work. When my phone buzzed in my pocket, I ducked into a nearby shopping mall so I could hear the call over the street noise. And then I heard the words that every writer longs to hear from a literary agent: Brian, I love your manuscript.
After all those years of writing and rewriting, researching and querying and pitching to agents, I’d found my agent through the good old slush pile. I’d done it at last!
When I stepped out of the mall several minutes later, there stood my binder-spinning Irish guy, patrolling a corner I’d never seen him guard before, directly in my path as if placed there. But that day he was right where I needed him to be.
I stopped in front of him and shook his hand.
“Today,” I said. “Today’s the day.”
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.