How the Light Gets In: A Not So Brief History

The sale of a book is a weird phenomenon — an often exciting but sometimes frustrating process involving a magical combination of skill, timing, and — mostly — luck. 

If you’re a writer who’s feeling defeated, or if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes of the submission process, or if you’re just nosey and want to know how my latest sale went down, I invite you to read on. I hope this saga (spanning seven years) reads like commiseration or inspiration or maybe a little bit of both. I hope it encourages you to continue trudging down the path to publication because — cliche as this may sound — it really does take only one yes.


September 9, 2010 – On this, my daughter’s first day of preschool, I write the opening scene of Where Poppies Bloom, the manuscript that will one day end up almost entirely rewrittenIf you’ve followed this blog or any of my social media platforms for a while, you might recall hearing about Poppies, also known as my Ghost Book.

November 30, 2010 – After three months of writing like the wind, I finish the first (of MANY) drafts of Ghost Book. It is my third complete manuscript.

January 3, 2011 – I begin querying. I feel hopeful, like Ghost Book might be The Book.

March 6, 2011 – I complete an agent-requested revise & resubmit. I’ve trimmed 11K words (about 50 pages) from the story, and learned a lot about pacing and killing darlings.

April 29, 2011 – I receive the first of two agent offers of representation. I’m certain this is it — my big break.

May 9, 2011 – I accept an agent’s offer of representation. Celebration ensues.

Early June, 2011 – I begin to revise Ghost Book according to my recently acquired agent’s feedback. I work hard, all summer and into the fall.

November 4, 2011 – Ghost Book goes out on submission, a process that will prove to be long, and rife with close calls.


August, 2012 – After a miserable “we love this, but the market is currently saturated” walk down submission lane, Ghost Book is, to my dejection, placed in a metaphorical drawer.

November, 2012 – With much anxiety, I decide to part ways with my agent. The decision to seek new representation turns out to be a positive career move.

December 3, 2012 – After a whirlwind and surprisingly positive querying experience with a fresh manuscript, I accept an offer of representation from Victoria Marini.

January 21, 2013 – Just as Victoria and I are getting ready to send the manuscript for which she signed me out on submission, we hit a snag. Through the publishing grapevine, I discover that my first agent received an offer on Ghost Book. In secret, she declined that offer on my behalf. This is a long, convoluted story, but suffice to say, I am very upset.

Late January, 2013 – Super agent Victoria manages to gracefully straighten out the mess caused by my first agent. I decide to let the previous offer for Ghost Book go in favor of focusing on the submission of my new manuscript. I won’t lie — this is a hard decision. For years, I will wondered if it is the right decision.

February, 2013 – April, 2014 – I work on new things: different manuscripts, strengthening my craft, and supporting others in the writing community. This time brings highs and plenty of lows. The path to publication is a rocky one.


May, 2014 – Because I love it — have always loved it — I dig Ghost Book out of hibernation, and brainstorm how to revitalize it. Victoria and I agree on the incorporation of a new element, and I begin a significant rewrite.

July 14, 2014 – I finish rewriting Ghost Book. I am so proud. I send it off to my critique partners, and await feedback.

November, 2014 – After another round of revisions, the story is ready. Victoria sends it to a limited list of editors. Remember, an earlier version of this book was submitted back in 2011-2012, so the pool is shallow. I write new stories while the months pass. Again, ALL the close calls. If I hear maybe when the market shifts one. More. Time.

July, 2015 – Eventually, Ghost Book finds its way back into the drawer, but not indefinitely. I believe that one day, luck will be on its side. I’m not so sad this time, either, because I’ve recently discovered Swoon Reads, and I’m preparing to upload a different manuscript, Kissing Max Holden, to the site. I’m excited to see where this crowd-sourced Macmillan imprint might get me.

November 16, 2015 – Holy shit — Swoon Reads wants to publish Kissing Max Holden! Finally, I’ve gotten my foot in the door, and with an imprint I find truly inspiring.

December, 2015 – August 1, 2017 – I spend the next 18 months focused on Jilly and Max. I revise, and edit, and promote. Spring, 2016, Victoria and I sell a second manuscript, The Impossibility of Us, to Swoon Reads. I am thrilled to be working with an imprint that supports and celebrates its authors. I can’t wait to write more!


Early August, 2017 – Victoria and I submit a third manuscript to Swoon Reads. Full disclosure: I’m feeling pretty confident.

September 13, 2017 – I get word that my editor isn’t into this latest manuscript. I’m so bummed, and yet… I get her reasoning. Also — surprise! — published authors don’t go on to sell everything they submit. I knew this, but now I know this.

 October 11, 2017 – I write detailed synopses of two new story ideas, and submit them to my editor. I am vaguely excited about both ideas, but also terrified that I won’t be able to pull them off should either be picked up based on proposal alone.

November 6, 2017 – Turns out, my concern was for nothing. My editor isn’t 100% onboard with either idea. *womp womp* But… she suggests I consider writing a story like [popular YA novel] meets [popular YA novel]. To which I respond… I’ve actually already written something kind of like that — my Ghost Book.

November 15, 2017 – My editor reads Ghost Book. And… she wants to take it to acquisitions. I am DYING. It’s been years, and this story means SO MUCH to me. How will I get through the next few weeks of waiting?

November 29, 2017 – Victoria has good news: Swoon Reads wants to buy Ghost Book! I’m beside myself! Not only do I get to work with my fantastic editor on another book, but this story that I love with all my heart has finally, finally, finally found a home.


And now I get to share my news with you! The story to which I have for years lovingly referred to as Where Poppies Bloom has a beautiful new title, How the Light Gets In, which speaks so perfectly to its themes and mix of darkness and light.

I’ve been hard at work on revisions, taking inspiration from my editors savvy notes, as well as some of the images I’ve included here, and those I’ve pinned on my How the Light Gets In Pinterest Board. This book (what will be my third published novel — what is this life?!) is due in stores and libraries Spring/Summer, 2019.

I can’t wait for you to read it!


#WriterRecharge {Update Three}

Writer Recharge

Writer Recharge is a month-long motivational challenge similar to last summer’s Ready. Set. Write! So many of us benefited from setting goals, connecting with other writers, and social media-based accountability. So, let’s do it again! Whether you’re delighting next to the crackling fireplace of a Shiny New Idea with a warm cup of tea and or spinning out on the ice-covered roads of revisions in an attempt to avoid the snow-packed ditch, we want to write with you! Learn more HERE

First, a confession: If I hadn’t started watching Friday Night Lights a couple of weeks ago, I’d probably be completely done with this draft of my WiP, Good Girls. I’ve spent several nights hanging with the Dillon gang when I should’ve been revising. But, I’ve still made some really awesome progress, and let’s face it: Tim Riggins is an incredibly worthy distraction.

~ AHEM ~

On Friday, I finished my Cut All the Crap revision round, reassessed my To-Do list (two full pages), and then dove right back in. Now, I’m about a 1/3 of the way done fixing the issues I’m aware of and polishing further. Guys, I’m getting excited! This thing is almost ready for readers, and I’m still thinking it’s got great potential. I can’t wait to see what sort of feedback I get from my brilliant CPs, and I can’t wait to apply their expertise to my future drafts.

Until then, I’ll be pushing hard to meet my goal of having a readable draft ready for readers on Friday. *crosses fingers* *guzzles coffee* *buys Jelly Bellies*

How’s #WriterRecharge going for you?
If you’re participating, don’t forget to post about your progress and share your link at Sara’s blog

On Insanity…

(This is one of those posts in which I attempt to make myself feel more normal by commiserating with all of you. Thanks in advance for humoring me. ♥♥♥)

By “the same thing over and over again,” I’m referring to revising and/or rewriting repeatedly with the goal of one day launching a publishing career.

So. I understand that with each completed draft I become a stronger writer. And that makes me SO happy. And I understand that publishing can be slow and frustrating and that there are no guarantees. I understand that not every writer becomes a published author, and I get that all writers experience moments of doubt and defeat. I have a well-researched, realistic view on the industry, and I realize that no matter how glamorous an author’s life may seem, no one has had an easy go of it. Writing is hard. Rejection is hard. Publishing is hard.

That being said, I  have a determined (stubborn?) streak that will not let me give up. I will continue to march toward my goal for as long as I am mentally capable of imagining and physically capable of typing. But…

Lately, when  family and friends (who are very sweet and well-meaning) ask me the dreaded, “Hey, when’s your book going to be published?” question, I have to suppress cringe. Because… I don’t know. I don’t know when my book’s going to be published. I don’t even know if this particular book will  see the light of day, ever. It’s kind of out of my hands at this point.

So, when asked that dreaded question, I end up answering with mumbles about an umpteenth revision, and then the family member or friend ends up giving me The Look. You probably know the one: It’s kind of confused and kind of piteous. Like, Oh, you cute girl (or bored housewife or crazy person). You must have such fun with your imaginary friends. Another revision, huh? How many revisions have you done on that book, anyway? When will the madness end? 

Yes. Yes, I am revising again. Yes, I know that probably sounds insane. Yes, sometimes I feel insane, and that sucks. But my story is better for it. And when my first book sells, trust that I will shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, you’ll probably be sick to death of hearing about it by the time the book ever sits on a bookstore shelf.

Until then, I’m going to embrace the insanity and continue to plug away, honing my craft, reading everything I can get my hands on, and just… writing.

Want to get in on my brand of crazy?

One Word Wednesday

{That’s the smile of a kid who’s halfway through her second week of spring break. We’ve had all kinds of fun so far – treats and movies and kayaking and the park, plus a week-long visit with her grandparents, Mimi and Baba. Fun!}

{Oh, look… I’m rewriting again. A different story now, one that’s full of characters I love and just can’t give up on. This manuscript had a plot that just wasn’t marketable enough, so I’m giving it a big ol’ facelift. I’m “done” rewriting about half the story, but it’s the back half that’s going to be most troublesome. Good thing Costco sells Jelly Bellies in bulk!}

{My husband and I have been doing the no-carb thing for awhile now, and it’s becoming harder and harder to come up with tasty and unique dinners that don’t include a bunch of bread/rice/pasta/potatoes. The other night I had a moment of inspiration and made what were essentially a crab cakes (sans bread crumbs). I  packed the mixture into portobello mushroom caps and baked it all in the oven. Even my girlie was a fan. Win!}

{Yesterday we went whale watching, which was the coolest. We saw humpback whales (there’s a tail barely visible in the lower right corner of the above image), grey whales, sea lions, and tons of dolphins. The best part? I doubled up on Dramamine and didn’t feel the slightest bit seasick!}

{We’ve been having a bit of a stay-cation over the last few days thanks to my visiting in-laws. It’s been so fun to hang in our town like tourists, and we’ve had a blast showing Mimi and Baba all the cool things the Monterey Bay area has to offer. Above is evidence of our trip down 17-Mile Drive.}

Tell me: What’s been the best part of your week so far?

I’m a (Re)Writer

The other day I read a fantastic piece written by YA author Jessica Spotswood entitled On Being a Slow, Inefficient, Imperfect Writer. Jessica talked a lot about comparing oneself to others and insecurities, specifically those writerly insecurities we all struggle with from time to time:

…I’ve still been sitting over here, judging myself for it. And it’s taken all the fun out of writing for me lately. If it’s not fun anymore, what the hell is the point?


In the spirit of Jessica’s wisdom, I’d like to share a recent epiphany I’ve had about my writing:

I am a REwriter.

I have to write something (a sentence, a scene, a story) wrong at least once before I figure out how it should actually be written. Sometimes it takes two tries. Sometimes it takes ten. Let me tell you… Rewriting can be a frustrating experience for this perfectionist. But it’s a process – it’s my process – and even though it can be tedious and wearisome, it’s how I get to know my characters and their voices and their motivations and their goals. It’s how I get to know my story. I don’t think I could do it any other way.

So, instead of worrying that my process is abnormal or stressing about the eons of time I spend getting a manuscript just-so, I’m going to take Jessica’s advice and respect the process. I’m going to learn to be okay with where I am and how I do things. I’m going to have fun!

Tell me… What kind of writer are you?


Over the weekend, I finished my WiP with these words:

I couldn’t stop smiling. I STILL can’t stop smiling. There are few feelings better than knowing you’ve drafted an entire story.

Technically, this WiP was a re-drafting, or a rewrite. I imported scenes from the original story (which I wrote in June of 2010), but approximately 80% of the manuscript is new material. The characters are reimagined (I love them so much more now!) and their story is fresh and more complex. The romance is more authentic, the conflict bigger, and the stakes higher. It’s far from perfect, but for the first time in a long while, I’m truly excited about it.

And now I get to tackle my slightly intimidating list of revision notes:

  I much prefer revising to drafting, though, so I’m looking forward to diving in. Time to make this manuscript shine so I can send it to my brilliant CPs and, eventually, Agent Vickie (cue nerves!).

As the summer carries on, my blogging will continue to be sporadic, but I’m slowly crawling out from my cave of WiP madness.


Where are you in your writing journey?

Friday Five…

It’s been so long since I’ve done a Friday Five,
I couldn’t help myself…

1. Writing Update – I’ve been deep in the throes of revising one manuscript and rewriting another. Sheesh… The writing process is HARD! And, it’s mostly the reason for the relative quiet here on my blog–revising and rewriting have sucked up all my creative energy. Plus, my husband’s been home for about a month now (yay!) and we’re still in that happy place of wanting to spend tons of family time together. So, when I’m not squinting at my computer screen and eating my weight in Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, I’m hanging with my two favorite people.

2. #MarchPhotoADay – I’ve recently fallen in love with Instagram, a photography iPhone app that lets you edit your photos with all kinds of cool filters and then share them with your friends on a feed. This month I’m participating in one of Instagram’s many photo challenges: #MarchPhotoADay. I’m thinking of it as another way to stretch my creativity, and it’s super fun to see how other people interpret the prompts. Here they are:

And here’s my submission for Day 2, FRUIT:

You should definitely join in if you’re an Instagram-er! Oh, and if you want to find me there, I’m katyupperman.

3. Flawed – I was lucky enough to read this stunning contemporary YA novel by debut author Kate Avelynn early (it’s being released this July by Entangled Teen) and let me tell you, it is absolutely heart-wrenching. Like, you won’t be able to put it down because you’ll be THAT stressed about the future of the characters. If you’re a fan of books like Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl and Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden, you should definitely check out Flawed. (Click the cover and you’ll be redirected to Flawed‘s Goodreads page.)

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago—James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely. Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give. Sam Donavon has been James’s best friend—and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on—for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realize James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact…

4. Homeland – I know I’m a little late jumping on this bandwagon, but have you seen Showtime’s Homeland? Holy hell… The first season was AMAZING. My husband and I don’t agree on many TV shows, but we flew through this one and are already itching for more. Homeland is fast-paced, powerful, and densely layered. No character goes without garnering at least a bit of sympathy (seriously–even the terrorists have clear motivations for acting the way they do), and every single episode is a game-changer. Plus, Claire Danes is freaking fantastic. Recommend!

5. Military Ball – Last weekend my husband and I lived it up at his unit’s Military Ball. Have I mentioned how happy I am to have him home? 🙂

So… What’s on your plate for the weekend?

Musings of a struggling rewriter…

Rewriting… easy-peasy. *rubs hands together* This is going to be FUN!

*stares blankly at computer*

*embraces procrastination*

Okay then. I might be in over my head a bit here. Perhaps I should revisit my beat sheet? Complete basic outline? A DETAILED outline?


*yanks at hair* How the hell do you replot a WHOLE STORY?

I used to know these freaking characters inside and out, but now… Who have they become? Who do they NEED to become?

*runs miles and miles and miles*


Huh. All this time I thought I was REWRITING, but I was really just tinkering… polishing a turd, if you will.

*has epiphany*

Must start from square one!

Okay… I might actually be making progress now. No, wait…

*groans* *cries* THIS IS SO MUCH HARDER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE! *shovels handfuls of bittersweet chocolate chips into mouth*

*finally secures a fragile hold on sanity*

Good thing my 2012 word is RESOLVE, because that’s what it’s going to take to get this thing done.


*writes some more*

Last week SUCKED. Meeting my word count goal was like pulling teeth. But this week… Hmm.

Wait! Is that…? Oh! I think it is! The urge to write! I actually WANT to write.

Pinned Image

Happy Friday the Thirteenth. 🙂 How’s YOUR writing coming along?

I’m Rewriting!

So, I had an epic blog post planned for today, one in which I was going to discuss my on-going rewrite of a book that was “done” a year ago. Then my daughter fell on her face (literally) while we were walking our dogs last night and I ended up spending two hours at the ER, then another at Denny’s because she wanted late night pancakes, sausage, and ice cream. Who am I to deny?


Anywho… I actually AM starting a rewrite. And good news–it’s getting easier. Know why? Because I’ve finally figured out the trick to a successful rewrite. Ready for it?

You must first be willing to let go of what the story used to be.

All my past struggles with rewriting stem down to one crucial mistake: I wasn’t rewriting. I was shifting, revising, tweaking, patching, replacing–anything and everything I could do to add new material while still hanging on to the essence of what the story was. And it wasn’t working.

So, I’ve let go of the original story. In fact, I’m treating it as if it’s not even mine. I’m viewing it as subjectively as possible. Those words I spent all last summer slaving over? They’re simply raw material I’ve stumbled upon and hope to improve. Sure, I’ll pick up the few scenes that happen to work and fit them back in, and I’ll flesh out characters who are worthy, and maybe steal back some of the dialogue that’s particularly witty, but other than that, I’m REWRITING. Completely. And that’s good, because I’ve spent months mulling over ways to make this story what it needs to be, and I think I’ve finally got a handle on it. This is exciting!

Because I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed by this undertaking, and because I’m an incredibly visual person, I’ve started with a crude, simplistic plot map:

See? Very simple.

That’s poster board and Sharpie, and those star Post-It notes are the major plot points. I’ve got smaller, color-coded ones that I plan to start working on tonight, Post-Its that will stand in for subplots, character notes and setting descriptors. Hopefully my little chart will serve as a jumping off point and make this rewrite more manageable and–God willing–more fun.

Have you ever attempted a major rewrite? Any tips or tricks to share?