I read this post on C.J. Redwine’s excellent blog yesterday. It’s mostly about all the hard work and commitment required to be a successful author, and how a person doesn’t turn into some superstar-other-kind-of-writer just by virtue of having a manuscript accepted. (Really, go read it. I didn’t do it justice.)
Here I sit on the eve of my launch event for my debut novel, WATER BALLOON. (Tomorrow, Booktowne in Manasquan, NJ at 7 pm. If you’re anywhere nearby, please come!)
Unlike C.J., nobody’s called me a rock star, exactly, or instructed me not to forget the little people. I have, however, been asked if I’m “over the moon.”
And I’ve been wondering why I’m not performing musical dance numbers hourly.
In the days after an earlier draft of this novel first went out in the world, nearly seven years ago, I was known to evoke the verbal pattern of the child in my sister’s second-grade class who followed all requests with “please please please please please please please.”
Each morning, I said the same thing: “please please please please please please please.”
And then (ensuing seven years, lots of rejections, lots of revision), my novel was published. It’s out. I’m celebrating tomorrow night with family and friends. Don’t get me wrong; I’m far from sad. I’m just not clicking my heels in the air several times each day or grabbing someone on the street into an unexpected embrace.
I’ve been haunted by a lyric from a Springsteen song:
“Inside I felt like I was carrying the broken spirits of all the other ones who lost.”
I have many friends who’ve been deeply frustrated and hurt when their effort and long-term commitment to writing were not rewarded. I think of those who never found the agent, who stopped writing because the rejections were too wrenching, and perhaps more than any others, those who just never got lucky.
I think luck is the piece of the equation few of us own up to. I think I’ve been very lucky.
Those of you who know me well may be thinking you figured something out I haven’t discovered yet, but I’m on it: I know there’s a part of me that has a hard time fully enjoying the fact that my novel is out in the world because my mother didn’t get to have that moment. She died in the window between acceptance and publication. I’ve already written about that, but didn’t want to leave it unmentioned here, in all its obviousness.
I know many writers, well published and not-yet published, who are in a dark patch of frustration. I feel like I carry a piece of their burden with me–writerly angst is weightier than some might expect.
I have no magic answers. I don’t even have words of encouragement that will ring true, I fear. I do know that those who stop writing and submitting will definitely not publish and there’s still a chance for the rest of us.
I feel guilty for not celebrating my success more joyously. The past two years have brought me a lot of publishing satisfaction, and I keep waiting for that to translate into a me-as-Fred-Astaire heel-kicking moment. But I suppose I’m someone who has always felt the lows more keenly than the highs. I’m working on it.
I’m really getting to a point here.
I had occasion to contribute an article to the 2012 edition of CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET (CWIM). I wrote about writing nonfiction. (Basically, I interviewed smart people who knew what they were talking about and pieced it together.)
I received my contributor’s copy this week. And it brought a lot back about those beginning writer years. The pre-work years and the pre-luck years. CWIM was IT—it was how I learned how to format a picture book manuscript. How I answered many of my own questions. Learned about editors and agents. The query process. Dos and don’ts of publishing etiquette.
It’s a hugely important resource to a beginning writer. I couldn’t WAIT for the new edition each year, to see what had changed, to read the articles on craft—sometimes written by people I knew.
And now I get to give away a free copy of the hot-off-the-presses 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET.
I know many writers of this blog are at a point in their career that has moved them beyond the need for this annual resource. But I’m willing to bet all of us know a writer at the start of her career. Maybe it’s someone in that hopeful this-is-the-best-thing-I’ve-ever-written stage, or someone who needs a writer-friend to listen when she complains about how hard it can be.
So I am here to gently suggest in a not-at-all bossy way that maybe you could take a few minutes to reach out to a writer-friend who’s in a rough patch. And if it’s a beginner writer-friend, send her on over here, for a chance to win an excellent, helpful book.
All you need to do for a chance to win is leave a comment. I’ll choose a winner at random on 10/1. The book will be shipped directly by the publisher.