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

THE CALL by Rebecca Van Slyke

I waited for a long time to get THE CALL.

You know the one. You’ve written a manuscript for a picture book/poem/article/non-fiction/novel and sent it out. Maybe you’ve written two. Maybe sixty. In any case, you wait. And wait. The weeks turn into months, and maybe– like in my case– years. You do the things you’ve been told to do. Be  patient. Keep writing. Keep sending out. Go to conferences. Join a critique group. Get an MFA in writing for children. Get an agent. Keep writing. Keep waiting.

And after awhile, if you keep doing this, you get– THE CALL.

Your manuscript has been accepted. (!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Now with all the practice that I’ve  had waiting, you’d think I would have prepared something semi-intelligent to say when THE CALL came.

You might think that. But you’d be wrong.

I got THE CALL on a Monday morning in early June, just after school got out. I was enjoying a leisurely morning of not having to go teach second grade. I’d had my tea, checked my email, and I was contemplating taking a shower. The phone rang.

Voice on the phone: Hello, Rebecca? It’s Joan.

Me (thinking): Joan? Joan who? It doesn’t sound like Joan, our retired school librarian…. Stall…

Me (out loud): Hello!

Maybe she’ll say something to clue me in.

Voice on the phone: How are you doing this morning?

No help there. Stall…

Me: Great! How are you?

Voice: I’m very well. I have some good news.

Good news is good. Wait! Maybe she said “Dawn.” It sounds a little like the Dawn I know who is getting married this weekend. She’s probably calling to tell me something about the wedding.

Voice: I got an email from Frances Gilbert.

Frances Gilbert? I don’t know a Frances Gilbert. A member of the wedding party?

Me: Yes?

Voice: She’s made an offer on MOM SCHOOL and DAD SCHOOL.

MOM SCHOOL? DAD SCHOOL? Those sound familiar. Wait. I wrote two picture books called MOM SCHOOL and DAD SCHOOL.

Suddenly all the pieces fell into place like a load of… very heavy things.

MY AGENT’S NAME IS JOAN. SHE HAS AN OFFER ON A BOOK! TWO BOOKS?

So I said… “Oh!”

That’s it. All my years of waiting, condensed into one brilliant syllable: “Oh!”

Little more than a letter, really. “Oh!”

Joan  had more to say, but I didn’t. After every sentence she told me– presumably details about the offer– all I could manage was, “Oh!”

I think I also said, “Thank you.” I hope I said, “Thank you.”

“So I’ll call you back with more details later, then,” Joan finished.

“OK.” Yay. Another letter added. “OK, then.”

We said goodbye. I think I managed a goodbye, too.

My family and I celebrated in secret because nothing was finalized. Champagne corks popped. We packed to go to the wedding, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to say anything to well-meaning friends who were sure to pat my hand and ask, “So how’s your writing going?”

I lamented the fact that all I had said was, “Oh.” I vowed that the next time I got THE CALL I would have something more to say than, “Oh.” Something intelligent. Something charming. Something gracious. I am a writer, after all, and writers are supposed to be good with words.

That very Thursday, before we left for the weekend, Joan called back. She had more details about the offer. I had some marginally intelligent questions to ask, and I even managed to take a few notes. Then Joan said, “Are you sitting down?”

“I could be.” I sat down.

“We’ve had an offer for another one of your picture books.”
Another CALL!! Here was my opportunity to be witty. To be erudite. To say something– anything– besides, “Oh.”

“Oh… my!”

*headdesk

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anti-Advice, Celebrations, Happiness, Introduction, rejection and success, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, The Call