Waiting by Rebecca Van Slyke

Waiting

Lord, please grant me patience. And I want it RIGHT NOW!

 

Last month I wrote about getting The Call. As with most deals, I had to wait until it was official to be able to share my joy with my family and friends. When I could finally announce something, I got the same reaction over and over: “That’s WONDERFUL! You certainly have waited a long time for this to happen!”

Yes.

Yes I have.

I’ve been waiting to be a “real author” for a long time. When I was four years old, I discovered that books were made by real people. I wanted to be one of those magical people called “authors” and “illustrators.” So I wrote stories on my Big Chief notebook and drew pictures on typewriter paper.

Skipping ahead to college, I took an educational literacy class where the professor offered us this choice: write a research paper, or write a children’s book. That was a no-brainer for me. I spent happy hours writing and illustrating a picture book. The professor liked it so well that he gave me an A… and passed the book along to his publisher. Unfortunately, they did not publish picture books, but it was all the encouragement I needed. The next thirty-mumble years were spent sending manuscripts out. I started with the first story, but gradually added others. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I joined SCBWI. I learned. I wrote. I sent out new manuscripts. I read. I went to conferences, to classes, to lectures. I learned more. And I waited. Every time I sent out a manuscript I knew that this could be the time.  And it wasn’t. Again and again it wasn’t.

I just went back and re-read this last paragraph and realize how pathetic it sounds. Good gravy, what was wrong with me? Why didn’t I give up? Thirty years without a nibble? That right there is some special kind of stupid.

Except I was making progress, I could tell. I finally took the plunge and decided to do more than take an occasional class. By now I was a teacher, and I did what teachers do. I went back to school. I got a master’s degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. That led to getting an agent. Now I was guaranteed to get an offer.

But the offers didn’t materialize. I watched classmates sell a book. Or several books. I had several near-yesses. I tried not to be jealous. I kept writing. I kept waiting.

A quote from Anne Lamott’s book, BIRD BY BIRD helped:

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

You wait and watch and work. You don’t give up.

So while I waited, I watched and I worked. I cheered on my published friends. I became more involved in my regional chapter of SCBWI. I started giving talks on writing. I critiqued. I mentored. I didn’t give up.  And the dawn DID come. I switched agents, and, after still more waiting, I got The Call in June.

So now that the excitement has settled down, what am I doing? Waiting. Waiting on revision notes, decisions on illustrators, opinions and decisions on new projects.

I have several friends who are waiting to get The Call. They’re close, I can tell. I know because they’re showing up. They’re waiting, and watching, and working.

Some of you reading this are in “waiting for The Call” mode. I need to tell you not to quit. Keep waiting, but while you’re waiting, keep watching for the next opportunity. Will it be a class? A conference? A chance to help someone else on the journey? Keep working to improve your craft. Write. Read strong literature. Illustrate. Study. Read craft books. Show up. And never, never, NEVER quit. Because The Call could be waiting just around the corner for you, too.

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11 Comments

Filed under Advice, Agents, Anxiety, Education, jealousy, Rejection, rejection and success, Thankfulness, The Call

11 responses to “Waiting by Rebecca Van Slyke

  1. I love this, Rebecca. All of this, especially the last paragraph — I hope it inspires those still waiting for The Call (or The Next Call) to keep going! One of the great things about being connected to a community of writers like our dear VCFA, or another school, or the Emus, or SCBWI, or a writers’ organization near you (NH shout out to http://www.writersday.org), is seeing everyone around you writing and waiting, waiting and writing and improving. There’s a misconception out there, I think, that writing has a finish line, but really it’s just a never-ending process. That’s . . . good, right?

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  2. And prior to the internet, you (we) did all that waiting alone, feeling like you were the only fool in the world who believed in that impossible dream. At least now, we can reach out to each other and share stories. Thank you for sharing yours so people like me — still waiting — can be reminded that that “revolutionary patience” is worth it.

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing this Rebecca! Just about the time I start to give up…again…I read something like this that is so hopeful and encouraging! So happy for you and can’t wait to read your book!

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    • Rebecca Van Slyke

      You’ll get there! The difference between someone who sees publication and one who doesn’t is often that next try. (See Lindsey’s comment below.)

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  4. Rebecca, beautifully expressed. I remember one particularly dark day during my waiting, a friend called and said, “Success goes to the person who ‘gets up’ one more time.”

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  5. This is the second time this week that I have read a post about showing up. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep learning. And keep showing up…great advice Rebecca. I appreciate your post 🙂

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  6. megtyme

    This is great. Especially “Why didn’t I give up? Thirty years without a nibble? That right there is some special kind of stupid.” Yours is the kind of story that gives people in the same situation the faith they need to keep going. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  7. autumn

    I needed this so desperately tonight, thanks Rebecca – I had literally said: I am done, it is time to admit that I should quit and then…here I am ~ thanks for sharing.

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