A lot of the chronology has blurred. This was all so long ago that “far, far away” refers to next door in comparison.
I did undergraduate work at a Florida university. Because all I wanted to do in life at that point was ride horses, I didn’t finish: stopped 31 hours short of an English degree. But I had contacts there, whom I bugged with my deathless prose. The first professor I asked to read my opus was gentle and generous but not much help. I don’t recall what he said about my book. I do recall he had kept a test of mine on the metaphysical poets. “You’re the girl who writes really, really small.” (I may be allowed to brag that he’d kept the test because my answers were really, really good, not because he liked small handwriting. I have always been a good taker of every kind of test.)
I knew of, but had not taken courses from, a genial older professor who ran a yearly writers’ conference. I begged him to read one of my best chapters. He told me, “If the rest of it is as exciting as this, I don’t see why you can’t get published.”
Of course, the whole point is you can’t tell whether it’s all that exciting. Only readers can tell you that.
Anyway, it must have been that very spring I went to his conference. It was one of those that early on saw the benefit to inviting actual agents and actual editors to come and troll for new authors.
I have these things to say about my eligibility for getting trolled for: I was young. I was pretty. I had what might be called a “fresh innocence.” I smelled like the outdoors. I had a complete manuscript about the Kentucky Derby. I was trollable.
I was trolled.