Jo Barrett wrote the attention grabbing book entitled, Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom, and followed it up with This Is How It Happened (not a love story). Aren’t those great titles? Ms. Barrett’s stories, though, are love stories. Or at least have love in them. Or are written with love. You get the idea. Jo Barrett worked on Capital Hill as a staffer, went to law school from Georgetown and gave that all up to be a writer. No wonder she turned to stalking! Read on for Barrett’s hilarious first sale account.
I broke the law. I lied. I cheated. I stole. Okay, perhaps it wasn’t this bad. But my first sale story is still one for the record books.
I’d been working on my novel for about ten months entitled: The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom. During this time, I essentially lived in a coffee shop in Austin, Texas. People in coffee shops do strange things. I remember I was reading the newspaper while eating a fudge brownie…for dinner.
When I happened upon an advertisement for a literary agent’s conference being held at the Omni Hotel, I felt something which could only be described as Kismet. I realized that I would attend this conference with my printed manuscript in hand. I would find a good literary agent, and I would sell my book. There was no other choice.
Now, here’s something you should know. The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom was not my first manuscript. Two years earlier, I’d written an entire manuscript which lay lonely and forgotten on my laptop. I’d sent it out to a single agent and been rejected so brutally, that I’d never had the courage to resubmit.
The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom was, therefore, my 2nd go-around.
The Writer’s League of Texas was hosting this conference and I showed up bright and early toting my manuscript inside a canvas messenger bag. I was stopped in my tracks by a tight-lipped woman at a sign-in table named Cruella deVille. She told me that I would be unable to attend the conference for reasons such as this:
1) the conference was sold-out
2) the conference was expensive – like a million dollars a ticket
3) the conference was sold-out
Not to be deterred (yet again!) I decided to return in the evening for the “reception.” Now, I’ll be the 1st to admit that I wasn’t actually invited to the reception, that I didn’t have a ticket, and that I was officially a "gate-crasher.’ Hey, those of you without sin…
I mean, hello. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
So, here I am gate-crashing without a nametag. Everyone else is wearing a nametag, of course. Everyone else is wearing cute little cocktail dresses and dinner jackets. I’m in jeans and a T-shirt. My outfit screams: “WOMAN WHO DOESN’T BELONG.”
I decide to smile. There’s another fellow who’s smiling across the room. I notice his smile immediately. He’s a charmer. He’s….a literary agent!
I approached him with a crazed glint in my eye. Here was my pitch:
“Hi, my name is Jo Barrett and you’re probably going to think that I’m one of those crazy people, but I’m not a crazy person and I wrote this manuscript about women’s bathroom conversations which is an under-explored area in literary fiction and I just wanted to introduce myself and blah, blah, blah….” I swear. My mouth ran like a lawn mower.
He looked at me, sighed, and said, “You’re stepping on my foot.”
And thus began a beautiful relationship.
The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom was published by Harper Collins, and in six countries. It was later optioned by CBS/ Paramount Pictures with Hollywood Actor, Hugh Jackman’s Production Company attached.
My new novel: THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED (not a love story) hit shelves last week and is a great read for Valentines!