|First author pic|
It seems like yesterday when I first began writing-for-publication at 18 years old. I’d known I loved to write and read in childhood, but those early years are the times when the world is our playground, and that playground is free, so I also wanted to be on Broadway, though I never wanted to live in the big city, and I wanted to be a Microbiologist to find the cure for cancer, despite being legally blind without my coke-bottle magnifying-lenses glasses. And by the time I was in college, I wanted to be a Psychologist and help people, so I signed up to the Air Force for that free college education, but before I could get to boot camp, I learned that I was to be a Mom instead! (1 month later, 9/11 happened, and war was declared).
This was when I decided to start writing-for-publication. Back in 2001, things were a bit different than it is today. Email queries were unheard of. You had to print out the query, the synopsis, and whatever chapters they asked for, and snail-mail it, paying for both the postage there and an SASE for their response. If the agent or publisher was interested, they’d request the entire manuscript. By some extraordinary miracle, my very first type-written novel, the “Strength Series’ inspired by V.C. Andrews, was requested by a publisher, so I printed out all 400 full-length pages and sent it. At that time, I didn’t realize how rare or profound it was to get a positive response so quickly, especially on my very first type-written novel. Just as rare as it was in that time to become a teenage author.
It was rejected and returned, however, and I was left with 400 pages of manuscript to sit in a box, in addition to thousands and thousands of manuscript pages and novels written that accumulated throughout the years. The worst part was: By the time I received my first heart-breaking rejection, I’d already written two other novels in the ‘Strength Series’ at a time when floppy disks became obsolete, and I lost all my written-novels that I didn’t print out and the Strength Series died, just like that. I pored over that manuscript hundreds of times, trying to figure out why it got rejected, and it took me until 30 years old to figure out, after I realized I had amnesia from 7 to 14 years old. That 7-year gap in my memory played out with my 7-year-old character, so she went from being a normal 7-year-old to an 8-year-old living a 14-year-old’s existence. My own memory losses had resulted in the first and worst rejection I’d ever received while being tormented by the knowing that the writing had been good enough for a publisher to want.
But at the time of not realizing why I got rejected, I took it as not being good enough, so I took every class and course I could, becoming certified in children’s literature, freelancing, editing and reading every book and magazine I could find on perfecting myself. Then, at 19 years old, my children’s story ‘Monster Down the Street’ was accepted for publication in a Children’s Literary Anthology with a contract that said ‘non-profit’, but I was so excited to have my writing go to national schools that I didn’t even care I wouldn’t get paid. … Until my handful of rejections became several dozen. Every novel I wrote – rejected!
It took until 22 to achieve my next publication, after my daughter was born, a vamp-erotica short that the publisher had requested that paid $.60 per book sold, Intrusion, but when the first two buyers were my district attorney and my daughter’s lawyer, while I was in the midst of a child custody battle and the victim defense in criminal court proceedings, I quickly pulled that book off the shelves.
So 6 years writing professionally, three published books by three different publishers, a writing portfolio that vouched for writing, editing, freelancing certifications left-and-right, over 40 published articles, newsletters, poems, and a couple of contest winners, 4.0’s in a Bachelor’s degree I’d gotten in a little over 2 years, and I’d made zilch! While sitting on a hundred rejections on just one novel, alone, let alone all the rejections for my other novels and works. But I just kept writing – novel after novel after novel – and by the time I was 30, I can honestly say I’ve probably been rejected between 3-400 times traditionally while having a 10% success rate in publications.
I had queried every agency in the Writer’s Market guide, plus all the ones I could search up on the internet and find in writer’s magazines, based on their guidelines and preferred genre, of course, alongside my writing portfolio that detailed my education and training and every article, short-story, newsletter, poem, book I’d ever published while also having interned as a contributing editor and writer for a magazine, and over and over again, I’d get the same thing. “Your manuscript seems marketable, and there’s definitely an audience for your writing, but we are not taking on any new clients at this time.”
14 years I’d spent writing professionally, at this point, and I’d picked up freelancing and editing and writing other people’s works to make the extra money I needed. I had a bigger drive than most, I think, because it wasn’t just my passion pushing me. It was being a single Mom and having my kids be raised by babysitters while I worked 2-3 jobs to finance the bills, while having a medical condition that flared up more and more frequently as I became older that my jobs wouldn’t be able to accommodate. It took until I was 28 for the doctors to figure out what it was and by 31, I was declared totally disabled, while still being a single mom and the sole-income to support my family.
My first author event, I made $130 in 2 hours, but that wasn’t even important to me. It was when I was asked to sign the book. I’m pretty sure I chuckled and looked at the person in disbelief. “You know I’m not famous, right, so this just seems weird.” And the person winked at me and said, “But should you become famous, I’ll be the one with your very first signature,” so I made sure to write inside the book, alongside my signature, ‘This is my very first signature’.
First Newspaper interview
But then returning home, a neighbor I’d never met pulled up alongside me and said, “Wow, all those years you’ve been living there and I never knew you were an author,” so I reverted back to my head-down, tails-between-the-legs, scuffing-the-shoes embarrassment, because the person that acknowledged recognizing me also acknowledged knowing where I lived, so then I had regrets about coming out locally.
Local conversations: “Hey, you know our neighbor down the road writes books? Yeah, she’s got a bunch of ‘em. She was in the paper and everything.” “Really? I didn’t know we had anyone famous around here. I betcha she’s the one in that house. I’ve always loved that house. It’s huge and has that big underground pool and -.” “No, she’s the one next to it.” “You mean that woman that never mows the lawn and leaves her garbage cans out by the side of the road for weeks on end?” “Yep, that one.”
Then there was my first book fair where I got to meet other authors for the first time in person. I was so busy getting books signed by them that I didn’t even tend to my own table. And the first library that stocked my books.
|First Barnes & Noble Event|
I provided her my information and told her to send me her manuscript and I’d read it and the delight and gratitude in her eyes was the most legit thing you can get out of people in this world – and it’s the inspiration I live for. Reading her manuscript, I found her to be amazingly talented. That natural talent that others spend years and decades of their life trying to hone. Her writing reminded me of myself at her age. To this day, I can brag that my writing in my youth was brilliant. The words flowed like magic. The voice and beauty of poetic youth before that free-flowing creativity and originality became rules, rules, and more rules. Hey, kind of just like growing up!
But more than anything, it reminded me of everything I went through and the thousand heart-breaks I endured in just having that innate passion to write and that deeply-ingrained desire to share it with the world, and in all that time, I had never met anyone, personally, in that field. Not an author. Not another writer. Not a literary agent or a publisher. No one that shared my passion. No one that shared my dream. No one to guide and help and support me other than the classes and courses that I paid for. It was a very lonely life. And seeing her, I just couldn’t fathom the idea of her going through the excruciating disappointment and loneliness and self-questioning and struggles with self esteem and self-worthiness like I did, because every rejection just kept telling me that I wasn’t good enough.
In fact, even after I had over a dozen books published, by the three other publishers, and then myself, I STILL questioned if I was any good. I’d feel embarrassed at events that people would feel like they wasted money, so I set my pricing as low as possible. None of my friends read books, so they wouldn’t read mine, and, to this day, I can’t say if my side of the family has actually ever read my books or not because they’ve never commented on it, other than vaguely. … Until I got my first fan mail by a complete stranger. Short and simple. “I love your books!” And that’s all I needed to hear, and there was no giving up FOREVER, and I would write and publish books for as long as I lived, because even if there was ONE person in the world that loved my books and was counting on more of them, I was going to follow through. That one single piece of fan mail made me more determined than ever to do the best I could possibly do and to keep trying, keep going, and to finally start believing in myself for once and for all.
And that’s all this beautiful, young adult needed to hear when she was questioning herself
|First feature in Publisher's Weekly|