I had a post already published this morning, but just deleted it after hearing the very sad news that Kensington editor Kate Duffy has passed away. Kate played a major role in my first sale to Red Sage as Penny, because I’d initially targeted my first Secrets novella to her. As can so often happen in publishing, my manuscript went awry, shall we say. It had been over a year and I had not heard on the status. I was at an RWA conference—I can’t remember which one anymore—and just happened to mention my missing manuscript to another writer who knew what Kate looked like (I didn’t). Turned out Kate was walking our way!
The writer pretty much sidelined Kate, introduced us, and I asked about my manuscript. Kate replied quite frankly that if I hadn’t heard by now then the manuscript had likely been rejected. Later, she told me that the look on my face made her feel so guilty (this from the woman many considered intimidating). Because I asked, “But wouldn’t I have received a rejection letter?”
“Tell you what,” she said. (And, yes, I’m paraphrasing, I didn’t tape record our conversation). “I have somewhere to go after conference, but give me about three weeks and then contact me. I’ll let you know what I find out about your manuscript.”
Three weeks later, I was at home wondering when would be a good time to phone or email her when she phoned me. She couldn’t find the manu anywhere, it must have gotten lost, and could I email her another copy? I did, and she read and rejected it within 24 hours. By another phone call. But she didn’t just reject it, she told me why she was rejecting it. And she asked to see more ideas. In fact, she asked me to write up three ideas for her, and she’d choose which she wanted me to develop into a novella for submission to Brava. I did that. Meanwhile, I took her comments on the rejected novella, revised it, and sold it to Red Sage Secrets. Without Kate’s comments during that phone call, would I have sold that novella? I’ll never know.
Back to the three ideas. Kate called me back another month later saying she loved two of the three ideas, and she wanted me to write the full novella of one and then begin the second while she was considering the first. I wrote the full novella and submitted it. Time went by. A lot of time went by. A lot and a lot and a lot of time went by. 🙂
Eventually, we reconnected, but she rejected the full novella. Again, full of remorse about doing so. Very apologetic (I’d never experienced an editor apologizing to me for a rejection, and phoning me to make that rejection). So much time had passed, as can happen in publishing, between her approving the idea and looking at the full, that the idea no longer excited her enough to make a sale. But she asked to see another novella, a partial this time.
I did write that third partial novella for Kate. Time went by. A lot of time went by. A lot and a lot and a lot and a lot of time went by. Eventually, we reconnected, and she still loved the idea but wanted me to turn facets of the story upside down. So I did. Resubmitted. Time went by. A lot of time went by. Then I learned that she was ill, and I decided not to bug her.
Meanwhile, I revised the second full novella to suit Secrets, submitted it and sold it. It’s releasing in Secrets Volume 28 this December.
Kate made me laugh. She was very self-deprecating, and she had a dry wit that I identify with. That she took the time to phone me when she could have just sent me form snail-mail rejections said a lot about her character. And still does.
Goodbye, Kate. I’ll miss you. Even though I didn’t get a chance to truly work with you, I appreciate all the help you gave me. Now and always.