Monday, May 26, 2014

My First Time: Rachel Weaver

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Rachel Weaver, author of the novel Point of Direction which Oprah magazine described as a “strikingly vivid debut novel.” Here's what William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke, had to say about the novel: “A lighthouse on an island off the coast of Alaska.  A couple together on that island, each alone with the losses that haunt them.  Rachel Weaver's Point of Direction beautifully explores love, loss, and the mysteries of memory, all set in an Alaska that stuns the senses.”  Rachel holds an MFA in creative writing from Naropa University and teaches fiction at Lighthouse Writer's Workshop in Denver.  Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review and Blue Mesa Review.

My First Collaboration

I thought signing with an agent was the end of the long road to publication--which was good because I was seven months pregnant with twins at the time.  I had been working on my book for six years when Susan Ramer, who had represented Kathryn Stockett’s book The Help, signed me on after more agents than I could count had passed.  I thought I was all set.

I also thought I was all set to have two babies at once despite the muted looks of concern that crossed over the faces of friends who had already launched into the parenting world as I went around announcing after a very surprising twenty-week ultrasound, “There’s TWO babies!”

What ensued was a boot camp on all fronts after the birth.  My agent wanted major revisions to the manuscript.  There were exactly twenty minutes in between getting one baby fed and settled before the next one needed to be fed and settled, around the clock for five months.

I slugged my way through two major rewrites over the course of eight months before I got an email in which my agent said she felt I wasn’t really solving the problems in the manuscript--mainly that the storyline was a little flat--and perhaps I should call her when I had another book ready for her to look at.  I threw myself a pity party that lasted a lot of weeks and then wrote back and asked for six months and one more chance.  She agreed.

My husband is not a writer, but he’s an idea guy.  I’m more of a follow-through person.  He is at his most creative at three beers.  I got a babysitter and we headed downtown.  At the three-beer mark, I gave him a quick recap of the plot and asked him to complicate it.

His eyes got big.  I’d never really set him loose in the middle of my creative process before.  “OK!” he started off, “What if…”

I ended up with my head on the bar overwhelmed at how hard it would be to make the sweeping changes he was coming up with.  He had a lot of crazy ideas, but he had one that I knew deep down would make the difference if I could figure out how to make it work.

For the next six months, we worked together to find me windows of time to work on the book in the midst of our crazy life.  I held my breath when I sent off the new draft to my agent and then almost fell off the chair when she wrote back weeks later, “You did it!!”

The novel, Point of Direction was featured in O Magazine this month and is dedicated to my husband.  Cheers, babe!  I couldn’t have done it without you.


  1. Congrats on the twins and the book! As I'm revising my first novel, your story is both daunting and encouraging. I thought after so many revisions and beta readings I'd be ready to send this baby off to agents, but now I'm thinking it may need ONE MORE deep revision. So feeling a bit daunted by the task ahead of me. Nevertheless, it can be done. Just roll up my sleeves and plunge right in. Thanks for helping take this next big step with a little more encouragment.

    1. Deborah,
      It is hard to know just when to let go, or when to keep going. Whichever you do, it takes courage.
      Best of luck to you as you forge ahead.