Carrying the Broken Spirits

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.)

I’ve been thinking about another side of that same story.

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.

And that’s all of my rambling for this week. Come back next week for an excellent interview with author Laurel Snyder, whose BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX will be out in the world on 9/27.

About Audrey Vernick

Audrey Vernick writes books for young readers.
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34 Responses to Carrying the Broken Spirits

  1. Congratulations on your article being published, and enter me into the giveaway!

  2. Max says:

    Thank you for making me think (I’m a hopeful beginner) and huge congrats on the ‘birth’ of your debut novel x

  3. Joy Moore says:

    Dear Ms Vernick,

    Thank you for a heart felt article for us unpublished writers. You words were encouraging. I will keep plugging on.

    Please enter me as well for the 2012 Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market

    Please do take a moment to enjoy your success. After seven years it is deserved.

    Joy Moore

  4. This is a beautiful post. Thanks for writing it.

  5. If no one has said it, it’s because they haven’t been paying attention! You are, without a doubt, a rock star, Audrey Vernick.

  6. Sarah C. Pilon says:

    My gosh! 7 years on that novel. Now that’s dedication! Congrats on the article and your big debut 🙂

    Best Wishes,


  7. Mirka Breen says:

    Beautiful, eloquent post.

  8. Congratulations! Please enter me in the giveaway!

  9. Tamara Smith says:

    Audrey, this is heartbreakingly and heartfully beautiful, all at the same time.

    And I have to agree with Jeannie. You ARE a rock star. Not because you got this novel published (although that is pretty darn cool and worthy, in my opinion, of some undies being thrown onto the stage) but because you are exactly, perfectly, hysterically, gorgeously just who you are.

  10. Stephanie Shaw says:

    Audrey, Thank you for this beautiful and timely blog. It was just what I needed.
    And a huge congratulations on your novel. Your mom would be so very proud.

  11. This is a wonderful post, and shows how the publication of a book is just another step in the journey. Congratulations!

  12. olugbemisola says:

    This is just beautiful. Thank you. You’re cause for daily celebration.

  13. What a beautiful post. Congratulations on your book (and your article).

  14. Lynda Mullaly Hunt says:

    Wow. This is incredibly touching… Thanks, Audrey!

  15. Cynthia Miller Coffel says:

    So many sad stories of people who just gave their lives to writing and never got a break . . . I appreciate your acknowledgment that there is an element of chance involved in success–in any success, really, I think–and those of us who are lucky, or successful, in almost any way, should acknowledge it. Thank you for encouraging young writers. (Gets up from desk, puts new rejection slip in drawer, types out address of new place to send rejected manuscript). Please enter me in the drawing. And thanks.

  16. Pamela Ross says:

    I am going to sound like Josh Groban (I know. Not Bruce.)
    But it’s true.
    You raise me up.

    Long may you write with your fingers on the keyboard and your feet on the ground. The rock stars that last are the ones who remain true to who they are from Day One.

    I was in the car this morning. ROSALITA came on Classic Vinyl on XM. I rolled down the windows and sang my heart out. Charlie had his nose perched at the top of his open window. I think he was singing with me.

    It made me feel like I could do this. That I could do ANYTHING.

    And it’s true, Aud. “Some day we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.”

    Even the sad parts. {{{}}}

    (going out to buy the new CWIM 2012 edition today) xoxo

  17. It is a long road, and very very few people are rock stars — with or without bic dedication. Thanks for the notes about this. I have several books out, but my novel is going on 15 years of work — maybe someday it will be a whole story and not many pieces. 🙂

  18. I know my writing partner would love such a resource. He’s got the 2009 and 2010 editions on his shelf, the corners softened and the edges blackened by use. He’s still looking for that first pub. Add my name to the pot, Audrey. And congrats on the article and the book! Your story sounds…inspiring.

  19. Thought of your comments while reading the August-Sept. issue of BookWomen. The author Lisa See quotes a Chinese saying: “There is soft happiness in sadness, and deep sadness in happiness.”
    I think this is true of anyone who is a sensitive person. Life events, good and bad, lead us to introspection.

  20. Audrey, your blog post is genuine, authentic, from the heart, and true, like you. When all is said and done, published or not, we are all in the same chair before another blank page, hoping for those little moments of happy flow, when publishing is far from our minds. And for children’s authors, we sometimes experience that special bliss–the feeling we got when our mothers read to us. Mostly mothers, sometimes fathers–in my day. Your mother is smiling…xo

  21. Mike Jung says:

    A lovely, empathic, altogether wonderful post, Audrey.

  22. Thanks for your poignant words, Audrey, and for sharing so openly!

  23. Pingback: The More Things Change |

  24. Penny Klostermann says:

    Thanks for your words!

  25. I just love how supportive the kidlid community is. Thanks, Audrey for sharing!

  26. Stacy Hart says:

    Thank you for sharing so openly with us.

  27. Audrey, how inspiring! Congratulations on the newest, and cheers to many more to come — and thank you for the eloquent words you share with others making the same journey.

  28. Mara says:

    I’m on a panel about children’s publishing in a few weeks, so if I win the copy I’ll pass it along as a door prize for hopeful writers . . . AFTER I read your article and Donna’s!

  29. Lois Dobart says:

    Congratulations on your success! Know that you are worthy of it! Your words inspire me to keep going. Thank you. Please enter me in the 2012 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market give-away. Thanks!

  30. Ev says:

    Thank you for a beautiful post, Audrey!

  31. WINNER! And a free copy goes to Katie Carroll!

    Katie, if you see this, please send me your mailing address for your Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Congratulations!

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