Dear Hopeful Writer,
You've been in my thoughts all day. (Not in a creepy, stalker-ish way, I promise. If it makes you feel better, pretend I'm writing to myself five years ago. Weird, but perhaps less creepy.)
I'm in New York this week, for several reasons. But the primary purpose was a breakfast with Various Important Publishing People at Random House. Publishers, Art Directors, Marketing and Sales and Digitial . . . I still laugh nervously when I look at the list of those I met this morning.
So why am I thinking of you, dear writer, on this surreal day?
Because I want you to know this: There. Is. Hope.
I don't know exactly where you are in your writing journey, but I am fairly confident that there has been hard work. And despair. And rejection. And giddy relief. And the satisfaction of doing something you're proud of, even when no one else knows about it. The moment when you find the right phrase. The moment when you solve a knotty plot issue. The singing joy of a character revealing herself to you.
There have been lots of times I have wished that my writing journey was different. I should have started writing earlier, I should have been a more aggressive querier, I should have attended more conferences, I should have spent more time writing or less time writing or lived a more exciting life so I had more exciting things to write about . . . What can I say? I'm a woman, I do guilt really well.
For one thing, every time I turn around in this market are successful women writers who are taking or have taken the publishing world by storm who are significantly younger than me. Shannon Hale, Veronica Roth, Vee Schwab, Kierstin White, Becca Fitzpatrick . . . Becca was my friend before she was published. Do you know what someone at her launch event for Hush, Hush said to me? "You must be Becca's mother."
I AM ONLY TEN YEARS OLDER THAN BECCA!
I started writing seriously when I was 34. The youngest of my four children was almost two years old at the time. My goal then? To be published by the age of 40.
I turned 44 earlier this year. My debut releases in May. Do the math.
But then I remind myself that, though the book isn't releasing until I am 44, that I had sold it by the age of 42. And two years of my late thirties were spent doing childhood cancer treatment with my second son and dealing with traumatic adolescent depression with my oldest son. So that gives me a break, right?
See what I did in that last paragraph? I'm trying to rationalize what, in my heart of hearts, I see as failure. Writers: too often we live and breathe failure. We feel it in our bones. We taste it in our throats. For every success (personalized rejection, partial requests, full requests, getting an agent) there is failure (rejection, rejection, rejection.) Virginia Woolf wrote: "Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others." Raise your hand if you often mind beyond reason others' opinions.
But here's the truth: I am a success story. When Becca Fitzpatrick sold Hush, Hush at auction and became a NYT bestseller, I told my family, "This happens to, like, I don't know, five percent of writers. Now that I know someone who's done this, it won't happen to me."
But then it did. I sold three books at auction to Ballantine Books. I have the editor of my dreams. I have the agent I was always waiting for (Tamar Rydzinski, you are worth every painful rejection I got over the years--Fate meant me for you.) I have cover art that is outstandingly, fabulously beautiful. My books have the titles I chose (a small detail, but one that moves me.)
And I had today: people I've never met telling me how much they love my story. How they love Dominic and Minuette and Will and Elizabeth. I have a book that's gone back for a second printing one month before release. I have authors who've read and blurbed it for me whose generosity makes me want to cry (besides the fact that I have blink every time I read their names and realize. This. Writer. Read. My. Book.) And I got all that today with my daughter standing next to me. Emma is a writer. At 14, she has written more words than I had by my thirties. She is knowledgeably proud of me, and nothing feels better than that.
Tonight, Emma and I saw Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway. One of my favorite songs is Impossible. And I had tears in my eyes tonight listening to the lyrics: "Impossible things are happening every day."
Yes, they are.
And that is why I am thinking of you, dear hopeful writer. Because I want to you know that I have faith in you. I believe in your dedication and your dreams. I believe in hard work that is its own reward and I believe that someone is waiting for the story that only you can write. I won't tell you not to be discouraged, because that is part of this journey. But I will add this: The only way to fail, is to quit.
Don't quit. I believe in impossible days--and your day is waiting for you to show up.
With love and hope and encouragement,