About eighteen years ago, I took my son’s avocado seed project (you know the whole seed in water with toothpicks thing?) and planted it outside our kitchen window. The seed had a tangle of roots and a small…growth. Too small to call a plant, and certainly not a tree. After about a year, the little growth was actually tree-like. Almost two-feet tall. We watched it grow, and grow. Years passed. We waited for avocados to appear. None did. I read articles about planting avocado trees from seed and got a bit discouraged. The deal is, avocados planted this way take a long time to bear fruit. A seriously long time. And then one year, we got blossoms. Actual little white flowers on the tree that was now about twelve feet tall. I knew we’d get fruit. We didn’t. The next year we got more blossoms. Still no fruit. The next year? The now fifteen foot tree was covered in blossoms. And lo and behold after a few weeks I had teeny tiny baby avocados.
And it was right about that time I realized the similarity between planting an avocado seed and trying to get some traction in the publishing world. I had been submitting to agents for a few years by that point and the baby avocados were a sign. Surely, they were a sign? And when every single one of those babies fell off the tree without reaching maturity the sign seemed to be: FAILURE.
I certainly felt like one. I had submitted several manuscripts. Gotten requests, gotten feedback, and gotten exactly zero offers of representation.
But the next year there were more blossoms and I knew that as long as I kept watering that now-too-freaking-big tree, and didn’t chop it down, some of those blossoms would become baby avocados and some of those babies would actually reach maturity. So I watched the babies grow and kept submitting. And I got into some fantastic contests with my writing. And then months went by and I realized I could pick full-grown avocados from my tree and in a week or so, have ripened fruit. And I did. I still didn’t have an agent, but I had something almost as good: belief that if I didn’t give up, it would happen. And you know what? It did. About five years after those first blossoms, I got an offer of representation. I did a crazy dance that my body was not prepared for. That one offer lead to ten more. And I wasn’t prepared for that at all. My dream agents were offering. I almost had too many avocados. A little bit over a month after accepting representation, my book went on sub and sold soon after that. Typing that sentence doesn’t at all capture what was going on inside me when that went down. It felt like a dream. Like magic. And as happy as I was—and still am—I know none of it would have happened if I had cut down my tree. Sometimes hope in the unseen is all we have. So if you are still in the query trenches, or haven’t finished the manuscript, or on an endless submission run…keep hope alive. Keep watering that tree.
As an aside, if you want an avocado tree, I strongly recommend you buy one from a nursery. Although my tree is a great metaphor, eighteen years is a long time to wait for some guacamole.