By Christina Kovac
Christina Kovac reads from her new novel, The Cutaway, at the East City Bookshop, Pennsylvania Avenue, SE at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29.
I was a television news girl. It was a great career, and during that time I wrote and thought like a journalist. When I wanted to try my hand at fiction, I had to change how I thought. I turned to The Writer’s Center for instruction and took a workshop called “How to Create a Page Turner” with Jim Mathews. I had read and loved Jim’s collection of short stories, Last Known Position. On that first night, he talked about the craft. He wrote exactly the way I wanted to write.
Later, Jim read my submission, which became the first three chapters of my debut novel, The Cutaway. “Don’t give up on this,” he said. Those five words of encouragement kept me going through years of writing and rewriting until I no longer had an idea if the manuscript was good. I was too close. Another workshop leader, Hildie Block, said my confusion meant I was ready to search for an agent.
I was terrified.
Hildie helped me go through a list of literary agents, picking out the best for me, and I sent out (maybe fifty) queries the way I do everything, which is all at once: sink or swim. Half of the agents responded, all with different requests: five pages or chapters or full manuscripts, some wanted C.V.s and outlines, others wanted half manuscripts printed out and overnighted.
Amidst the confusion, I got an email reply from Dan Conaway at Writer’s House. Hey, send some chapters. Thanks.
So chill. I liked him. Immediately.
Music, he said. He’d heard me. That’s when I knew he was the agent for me.
Together we worked on finishing touches to sell the manuscript. Dan had a heavy editor hand—all brilliant ideas. He’s incredibly talented. Everything he suggested I did, sometimes pushing farther, which delighted him. It was the beginning of a great partnership. He became more than an agent, editor, or mentor. He became my friend.
We sold The Cutaway in a two-book deal to Dawn Davis at Atria Books. I nearly passed out when Dan told me. After all, Dawn Davis had been Edward P. Jones’s editor for The Known World, one of my all-time favorite books. Dawn is as amazing as you’d imagine. Dan went on to sell the TV rights to my book to Howard Gordon, creator of Homeland, for 20th Century Fox.
Last week, The Cutaway was published It’s the dream I had all those years ago, sitting in Jim
Mathew’s workshop. Hope I never wake up.