Tag Archives: Courage

Luke Reynolds’ The Looney Experiment – An Ode to Teachers

Welcome to Day Two of the EMU’s Debuts launch party for Luke Reynolds and his charming new middle grade novel, The Looney Experiment. If you haven’t already snagged a copy of the book for yourself, or for the nearest young reader in your life, I’m pretty sure you will Looney Experimentwant to by the end of this launch week. Yesterday, Megan introduced some of the looney things we’ve done in our pasts. Today, we’re stepping into the shoes of Atticus, the protagonist of The Looney Experiment, and to the teacher who impacted his life so profoundly, Mr. Looney. We’ve blown the cobwebs out of our memory noggins to reflect on the teachers who helped to shape each of us.

male-teacher-cartoonMs. McCauley was my third-grade teacher. She was the no-smiles type of teacher who left a lasting imprint on my life. You see, I was a slow-as-molasses type of reader when I was little. So slow that it made reading not fun. But Ms. McCauley realized something was wrong. Turned out, only my right eye read. The left one did nothing, causing the whole reading process to slow way way down. She taught me how to strengthen my eye, my reading and ultimately, my love for books. Thank you, Ms. McCauley!     Elly Swartz

red-crayon-pencil-clipartMy first through third grade teacher, Mrs. Knight, is definitely the teacher who sparked my creativity. As long as I did my homework in math and science, she would let me sit at my desk and write stories until my fingers fell off. Mrs. Knight even staged readings in “The Circle” (which was actually a square and still to this day gets me in an Inception-like rabbit hole of “what in the heck did this misnomer mean?!?!”), and kept our books in the classroom library. I will forever remember Mrs. Knight, and wouldn’t be here today without her.     Jason Gallaher

green-crayon-pencil-clipartMy favorite teachers were both band teachers: Mr. Jacobus in junior high and Mr. Duffer in high school. Mr. Jacobus helped me develop a love and appreciation for music. With his encouragement I discovered a drive to set goals and improve as a musician. In high school, Mr. Duffer exposed us to an impressive range of composers and taught us to dream big. Under his guidance we won several competitions and learned not to be afraid of a challenge. I will always be grateful for the incredible gift of music they nurtured. It continues to shape my life in unexpected ways. Case in point: those early band days are providing inspiration for my current work-in-progress!   Christine Hayes

red-crayon-pencil-clipartTeachers often told me that I was good at writing, but I never really felt like I had any particular talent for it. Writing finally came alive for me in middle school when—believe it or not—we got to diagram sentences! Our teacher, Mrs. Lysdahl, showed me that language could be logical and fit together like pieces of a puzzle as well as being beautiful and creative. It delighted me that it could be both of those things at once, and the exercise appealed to both sides of my brain. I loved finding particularly beautiful and/or powerful sentences and then analyzing them, taking them apart to see what made them tick. It somehow brought the “hard” part—being creative—back down to earth for me, and made it seem less like a magical talent that you either had or didn’t have and more like a skill that I could really master if I worked hard enough.   Laurie Ann Thompson

green-crayon-pencil-clipartMr. Arkle taught 12th-grade honors English and blew my mind when he assigned us an E-Prime essay. At that age, I already loved to write, but I always did it quickly, with abandon. E-Prime demanded that I choose each word with care. It opened my eyes to the power of being deliberate. It also taught me what it meant to edit; I spent hours searching through that paper and eliminating tiny slips and weaknesses. Two decades later, that assignment and its lessons remain vivid in my writing mind. Thank you, Mr. Arkle.   Megan Morrison

red-crayon-pencil-clipartTwo teachers come immediately to mind. And they are husband and wife!  Scott Kalter and Sydney Long.  Scott was my 6th grade teacher in a tiny 4 room schoolhouse. His energy and passion were anything but tiny though.  As an adult looking back, I think what he taught me more than anything was the art of active listening: Scott’s focus on each student, and his genuine interest in what each of us was thinking (and hoping and fearing) made all of us feel…real. I know he made me feel that way—like I was a vital part of a community; like I mattered as a unique individual but had a necessary place, too, in the whole.  Sydney was my junior high and high school chorus teacher. Her energy and passion were enormous too. And as an adult looking back on my time with her, I think what she began to instill in me was a work ethic. In specific, she nurtured a process that asked her students to trust that hard work, constant practice, and always striving for better would result in, not only a stellar product, but a magical one.

It took me a long time to fully take in Scott and Syd’s lessons, but in hindsight I truly think they planted critical seeds in me. They also became dear friends, who helped me through some rough times in my young adult life and who, I am grateful to say, officiated at my wedding. They are a critical part of my life today, and I love them both.  Tam Smith

green-crayon-pencil-clipartIn 3rd grade my teacher Mrs. Weber had us all write poems. She didn’t tell me, but she sent mine into the town newspaper…and they published it. I can still see my mom’s face, and feel the surge of happy surprise. And the pride. And I resolved to become a writer. Thank you, Mrs. Weber!!!      Janet Fox

red-crayon-pencil-clipartI feared math class with all my heart. Teachers tried, but I was frozen. In 6th grade, my classmates and I were tested for an advanced algebra class. I passed. I was tested again. I passed again. Here’s why: There weren’t any numbers on the test. If A equals B and B equals C, then… I had no problem with it.      When algebra started, I could barely keep my head above water. As friends aced tests, I struggled. Finally, my teacher had had enough. The night before a big test, she kept me after school and worked for hours with me until I could solve the equations.

The day after the test, my teacher, as was her custom, made the class guess who got the highest score. Name after name of the best math students went by. Finally, she tossed the test on my desk and said, “It was Hayley.”

We both triumphed that day. It wasn’t the end of my math troubles, but it did crack the ice of my fear a little. I could no longer believe that understanding was impossible. My teacher, Miss Kalogeris, did that.   Hayley Barrett

green-crayon-pencil-clipartWithout a doubt, my favorite and most inspiring teacher was my fifth grade teacher, Miss Mellion! She was an artist, fresh out of college, and full of energy. Every month we’d have an artist of the month featured, like Winslow Homer, or Mary Cassat, or Degas, and we’d learn about their lives and art. Her mother was also a teacher in CT, so we had a penpal program, and we even got to meet our penpals one time on a field trip to a museum. She was also a vegetarian, and taught us all about nutrition, and the food groups, and although I didn’t become a vegetarian until many years later, she definitely influenced me. I recently found her address, and am planning to write to her. I hope she still lives there since I’d love to hear from her! She was very encouraging about my writing, and I think she’d be proud to know that I’m now an author too.  Maria Gianferrari

red-crayon-pencil-clipartMy fondest teacher memories can be traced to two special educators. When I was in fourth grade, Mrs. Gentry took a special interest in me. Or, rather, she made me feel special. While I was an average student in general, I stood out in Language Arts, and I was her star speller. I collected the most gold stars for winning the classroom spelling bees. Despite my shyness, she encouraged me to compete on the school’s UIL spelling and poetry teams, which completely converted me to Language Arts geek.

My sophomore English teacher, Mrs. P., was equally important. She insisted that we write in journals every day, which became therapeutic for me during some tough teen times. Somehow she recognized a spark in my writing, and was always encouraging me to think bigger and to do more. It’s probably too late to track her down, but I would love for her to know that I took her advice. Donna Janell Bowman

Bravo to Mr. Looney, who inspired Atticus! And Bravo to all teachers around the world.

What you do matters!

school-chalkboard

Comment on any post this week for your chance to win a copy of THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT.

Buy a copy of The Looney Experiment from your favorite independent book store, or consider one of these fine merchants:

Amazon, BooksaMillion,Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

 

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Living Life Looney ~ Let’s Welcome THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT!

First order of business: To announce the winner of Penny Parker Klostermann’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT launch-week giveaway. Congratulations Rachel, you’re the lucky winner! To claim your fabulous reward, please e-mail Penny directly at penny.klostermann@gmail.com – and do it soon, or a dragon may swallow you. 

And now, drumroll please… We’re kicking off yet another fantastic EMU debut! Last Tuesday, Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel hit the shelves – and this week, we’re celebrating!

THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT is a remarkable book. Here’s a little about it, from Luke’s web site:
LOONEY EXPERIMENT coverAtticus Hobart couldn’t feel lower. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists, he is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe—just maybe—discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.”

Mr. Looney knows – and so does Luke Reynolds – that being true to yourself takes a special kind of courage. To honor that courage, we EMUs have looked back on our own lives for moments when we have lived life “Looney” and taken personal risks in order to be true to ourselves.

Janet Fox confesses that her biggest Looney leap…

VCFA“was when I decided to go back to school for my MFA in writing (from Vermont College of Fine Arts). Why looney? I had a teenage son, a husband who traveled all over the world, and no income to pay for those two years. My sweet friend Kathi Appelt said, “Do it. The money will follow.” Well, it did: my dad, who I thought had only enough left to live on, gave me a legacy gift that covered the whole thing. Bless you, Dad. Bless you, Kathi. And – leap of faith!”

Carole Gerber lived life Looney when…

OhioState“I left a secure teaching job to return to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State. At that time, the job market for journalists was flat. Fortunately, I received a graduate assistantship that paid my tuition, and I earned a small stipend writing press releases for the OSU Department of Communications. Thanks to the contacts I made and the experience I racked up, I was also able to find a job in my field immediately after graduating.”

 

Jason Gallaher tells his tale of a recent risk…

Brony2“The biggest risk I took to be true to myself actually happened just a few short weeks ago at our annual EMLA retreat. In front of all my writing sisters and brothers, I finally came out of the closet as a Brony—a grown man who watches My Little Pony—by wearing an adult-sized My Little Pony onesie (it was of Rainbow Dash, for those of you familiar with the show). I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and now I can express my Brony ways with pride! Neeeeeeigh!!!!”

Penny Parker Klostermann reflects on making her Looney dream a reality…

There Was an Old Dragon cover“I think taking the leap into getting published was my Living Life Looney. I dreamt of it for years but made excuses for not being true to my dream. I know that had a lot to do with fear. Probably the biggest step I took was sending my work to my now critique group when they were searching for a new member. That was scary but it made me feel like I was taking a serious step. After being accepted I knew I’d made a commitment to other writers and not just to myself. There was no looking back!”

 

Laurie Thompson knows that going for what you want can feel pretty Looney…

ThisIBM“When I was in college, one of my best friends got an internship at IBM. When I heard about what she would be doing there, I was so jealous. I hadn’t planned on going on an internship that semester, but it sounded like the perfect job. I called directory assistance to get the manager’s home phone number, and called him–at home on a Sunday–to tell him how much I wanted the job and why I’d be the perfect candidate and to beg him to consider hiring me, too. He refused to look at my resume or check my references or anything. He said that anyone who wanted the job that badly and had that much chutzpah was an easy hire, even though he could only think of a few months’ worth of work for me at the time. Shortly after I arrived, however, one of his full-time employees had to go on extended medical leave for most of the project, and I was there to step in to some degree and help keep things on schedule in her absence. I ended up staying a full year, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It was also a valuable lesson in not being afraid to ask for what you want!”

Maria Gianferrari gets Looney when animal safety is at stake…

2787614567_3fbd79a560_b“Writing is probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken—rejection is scary, so I’m proud that I continued to persevere. But I can think of an incident, perhaps not the biggest risk, but another that I was proud of myself for when I was in 5thgrade. My mother had to drop something off for a church event at a classmate’s house, and two of my male classmate friends were in the yard preparing to move from shooting targets with a BB gun, to shooting some birds and squirrels. I was a shy, non-confrontational kid, but as an animal lover, I was not going to let them harm anything while I was around, so I kept shooing them away. They were so mad at me, and kept yelling, but I didn’t care.”

Finally, Tamara Ellis Smith’s wise words on Living Life Looney…

MFA“Probably one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken was deciding to go back to school.  I had two little kids at the time, so making the commitment to take two years to get my MFA in writing for children and young adults, was a big decision—for me and my whole family.  I had this deep intuition, though, that it was exactly what I needed to do, and I am forever grateful that I chose to listen to that.  (I am also forever and beyond grateful to Derek, my husband, for being so supportive of my choice too.) It felt like a big risk to spend all that time (and take out all those loans) on something I wanted so intensely.  The stakes were high, you know?  It also felt like a big risk, socially.  Until then, I had avoided situations that would place me with new people in new environments because my social anxiety was so great.  Deciding to go to grad school was one of the first times I recognized that my desire could be bigger than my fear.

The other thing that ended up being so cool, and magical—I had no idea how I would go away for two weeks every semester for the residencies. How would I find childcare so that Derek could continue to work? How would I afford that?  A few months before my first residency I re-connected with my best friend from my hometown. She was looking for a way, in essence, to restart her life. She wanted to come back to Vermont. She wanted to ground herself there. But she needed to figure out a way to get back.  She ended up coming to live with us, and she watched the kids during those two weeks over the two years I was in school.  It was amazing. She had a place in which to hunker down, my kids had the best “fake mom” ever, Derek got to know this dear friend of mine, and we got to reconnect.  She ended up living with us for over five years!

Identifying your deepest desires and taking those risks—you never know what magical things will come!”

Join the Looney ranks! Comment below and share a time when you were courageously Looney, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel: THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT.

Or, if you just can’t wait for your copy (we definitely can’t!), click any of these links to purchase THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT now:

Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Faith, Launch

Being Brave: A Challenge for Writers in Particular and Humans in General

403px-Womans-Holy-War

Cool image, no? Never mind that I cropped out the part about the Temperance League, since we all know how that turned out. I prefer to think of her as a crusader against all the bad stuff we say to ourselves.

I hate my nose. HATE IT.

Hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it.

Hate it.

I don’t like having my picture taken.

I feel uncomfortable in the presence of people who are pretty and confident.

I let it fuel all the other things I don’t like about myself until I’m one big ball of self-pity and guilt: about my weight, about not being a Pinterest-perfect mother, about not writing often enough, about the stupid crumbs on the floor and dishes in the sink. And let’s not even touch the whole issue of “my writing isn’t good enough.” Yeeesh.

Why not get the nose fixed and be done with it? Because my mother got hers fixed right out of high school, and she still hated herself. And we never got to have an authentic conversation about accepting what God gave you and moving on to more important things in life. Because my daughter has an Asian nose that’s not like other noses in her class and I want her to know that it doesn’t matter, that it’s part of who she is.

Except it does matter, because I let it matter, and I’ll never teach her otherwise, never teach her what it means to be brave and bold and fearless and look beyond self to those more important things if I can’t put this aside once and for all.

Here’s the crazy part: In my 20s I had a beautiful Chinese boss who was thin and glamorous, and one day she leaned across her desk and whispered to me that she liked my nose and had always thought hers was too flat. Did I suddenly wake up and realize how foolish I’d been? Did it shape my outlook for the better in any way? No, it did not. Because that was like 15 years ago, and nothing has changed.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve challenged myself to be braver and to KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF. It’s interfering with Stuff I Wanna Do, and I’m sick of it.

At last month’s retreat for our amazing EMLA writers and illustrators I was surrounded by high quality people, people who are changing the world for the better, who care about Issues, who are making a difference and can talk to people un-self-consciously and LIVE and WRITE and BREATHE like the well-adjusted, grateful, talented people that they are. Many of them—maybe even most of them—are introverts like me, but unless they’re all capable of faking it really well, they were able to put that aside and enjoy those moments together that are so rare and precious and valuable. Next year, I swear I’m not gonna let that slip through my fingers because of my own ridiculous issues.

I’m here to challenge you to be brave in whatever way stretches you, even just the smallest bit. It doesn’t have to mean climbing a scary tall mountain or baring your deepest insecurities on the troll-infested internet. It means identifying what scares you and taking the tiniest of steps out of your comfort zone and one step closer to whatever it is you’ve always longed for.

Living life “cramped and insane,” as Anne Lamott would say, sucks. Enough. What issue is weighing you down, keeping you from being the writer or adventurer or pet owner or open, joyful human being you’ve always wanted to be? Rip it out of you, throw it on the bonfire, and be done with it. Easier said than done, I know. But if I can click “Post” on this rambling example of over-sharing, then I know you have it in you, too.

_____________________________________________

ChristineHayespic2 (534x800)Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Guilt, Writing and Life

Zen and the Art of Manuscript Submission

On Friday, April 1st I came home from work, logged onto Facebook, and was reminded that it was the deadline for two of my fellow EMUs to send their revised manuscripts back to their editors. Those two are Natalie (whose panic surfaced here at EMU’s Debuts last week), and Mike, whose Facebook post for Friday looked like this:

I don’t usually derive joy from the pain of others, but I have to admit Mike’s post delighted me.  Three things seemed worthy of celebration:

1.  Mike is back on Facebook after his revision hiatus (Yay!!)

2.  Mike sent revisions to his editor right on schedule, a Herculean feat that keeps his book on schedule for publication! (Yay!!!!!)

3. Mike is even more uptight and neurotic about sending a manuscript off to his editor than I am (YAY!!!!!!!!!!!)

I know, Number 3 seems a little mean-spirited. No doubt some Mike Jung fans are crying in protest– “You’re the uptight neurotic one, not Mike!”  But consider my Facebook post of January 16, regarding a similar moment in my life:

You see? ! I granted myself a full 24 hours (8 of which I was asleep) before freaking out.

Okay. So what of it, you are asking. Sure, Mike’s a bit twitchy. Name me one writer who isn’t. Is the whole point of this post just to drag his good name through the mud?

Here it is--the manual we all need. I designed the cover, now who do we know who can actually write it for us???

Absolutely not.  I am writing this because these posts reveal a NEED.  We writers need a manual on Zen and the Art of Manuscript Submission.

Zen Buddhism centers on meditation as a means to peace and enlightenment. Meditation strips away the hectic surface of our lives to reveal a calmer, deeper place where the ultimate reality of unity, love, and boundlessness may be experienced. Just the sort of place one needs to seek out after hitting that send button or slipping that dog-eared manuscript in the mail.

The irony is that writing is a very Zen sort of thing, at least for me, but it leads to revision and ultimately to submission, which is SO NOT Zen. To clarify, allow me to employ the Jeannie Mobley Ten Point Scale of Zenosity, wherein 1 is all  hectic surface noise that keeps us from peace and truth, while 10 is Nirvana itself. Henceforth, I shall abbreviate this as the JMTPSOZ, which is admittedly a bad acronym, but a much worse hand in Scrabble.

So let’s evaluate these three parts of the writing process: Writing the First Draft, Revising for the Editor, and Submitting.

Writing the First Draft rates somewhere around 8-9 on the JMTPOSZ.  When I put pen to paper the noise and chaos recede and I sink into a deeper place. Hours pass unrecognized, words flow, threads of the story come together miraculously in ways I do not seek to understand. It is as if I am the instrument for a creative force greater than myself–it is the Zen of Writing. I re-emerge refreshed, deeply satisfied, reveling in my unity with the universe.

If writing is meditation, revision is work.  So the revision process sinks on the JMTPOSZ to a 4 to 5.  Note however, that we haven’t hit rock bottom here.  Revision can be hard, but it’s satisfying too. Not the deep, Zen, spiritual satisfaction, but more of the Protestant Work Ethic sort, wherein  accomplishment just feels GOOD! As long as I am blundering through the religious metaphors willy-nilly, this moment is more like the Conquering of the Wilderness–the Manifest Destiny of the acquired novel:

The Great Editor appeared and spoke thus to The Author, saying, “When thou hast made the changes writ herein, thou shalt find the promised land!”

And lo! The Author took from The Editor the Immense and Glorious REVISION LETTER and went forth, brandishing the Flaming Pen of Truth in one hand, and the Word Processor of Grammatical Accuracy in the other, and the unwashed hordes of characters with unclear motivations cowered before him! And when all was complete, the writer saw it was good, and offered up the glory of the Newly Revised Manuscript to the Great Editor, saying unto him,  “Here is the most dog-eared, incoherent, raggedy-ass revision the world has ever seen!”

That last line kind of killed the whole religious moment I had going there, didn’t it?  And that’s because that line moves us into the third phase.

SUBMISSION.

Submission, whether it is to the agent, to acquiring editors, or to someone who already acquired the manuscript, it gets a negative 3 on the JMTPSOZ (I know, I just yanked you back to Buddhism. Think of this as sort of a fruit salad of religious philosophy.)

Submission is the part of the process that completely and utterly exposes us all to the most brutal noise and clutter in the world– the voices of self doubt and criticism that come shrieking in like Valkyries onto the bloodied battlefield of our creative minds (because what fruit salad is complete without some Old Norse Paganism?)

BUT here is my point, Mike (and anyone else who kept reading in the hope I might eventually have one):

Those Valkyries are illusions–their shrieks only empty noise. The deep, quiet place is still there-and as true as it ever was.

The time has come to rely on the Zen of Manuscript Submission. Please turn to page 3 and follow along.

Close your eyes, Mike. Breathe. Contract away from the noise, the clutter, the false voices that shout “you are a clueless, bumbling, bowl of neurotic Jell-O.”  All writers hear them. They are liars and fools (the voices, not the writers.)

Relax. Breathe.

Draw in a deep breath and say to yourself “Arthur will…”

Now let the breath out and say to yourself  “…love it.”

In breath: “Arthur will…”

Out breath: “…love it.”

“Arthur will…” on the in breath

“…Love it” on the out breath.

That’s it, Mike. Relax into it.

Okay, while Mike is doing that, I suspect the rest of you are thinking, she can’t REALLY know Arthur Levine will love it. Of course, you’re right. This is meditation, for heaven’s sake, it’s not fortune telling–and I don’t even know Mr. Levine.  But here’s what I can say with confidence, and what we all have to say when the submission panic starts to rise.

Our editors are our allies.

They may not love our revisions and may send us back to the drawing board (or writing desk), but if they do, it is because they are attempting to achieve the Zen of Manuscript Submission too.

Our editors acquired our manuscripts because they love the stuff we drew out of the deep places of truth.  In asking for revision they are helping us to peel away the noise and clutter so that the inner beauty can shine forth.

That’s right, Mike. Arthur Levine is your very own personal Zen Master. Fear not his opinion of your revisions, because even if he tells you they are incoherent, it is because he loves it.  Now one more time. Breathe.

Arthur will…

…love it.

And if that doesn’t make you feel better, resort to chocolate.

ADDENDUM

After writing this I logged back onto Facebook, and saw Mike’s post, with this new comment:

Okay, Natalie. Relax. Breathe.

“Emily will…” with the in breath.

“…love it,” with the out breath….

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Filed under Editing and Revising, Publishers and Editors, Writing, Writing and Life

Defying Logic, Fighting Gravity, and Other Lynda-esque Kinds of Things

I’ve been thinking a lot about my transformation from writer to published author—and I don’t mean signing on the dotted line or that new tiara I bought myself. I mean getting serious. Shifting perspective. Taking action. (Maybe I need my own action figure doll?)

SCBWI had become a social world for me. I’d made friends and enjoyed the conferences. For about four years, I met with editors who had enthusiasm for my work. Each time, I went home and started something new—much to the frustration of my writers’ group. “Why are you working on this new thing?” they would ask. “I thought Editor X requested the other full manuscript at Conference Q.” I would shrug, telling them I had a new “voice” in my head.

Enter Editor Z. When I sat down for a critique, she raved about my 25 pages. What direction did the story go in? Was it finished? She actually said, “I have to have this.” Was this “Candid Camera: SCBWI Edition?” I hoped Geraldo would not host.

I proclaimed that it wasn’t done, but it would be. I don’t know if it was this particular editor, or that I was finally brave enough to see if I had what it took. But, for whatever reason, I went home with my eye on the prize. In ten months, the novel was ready to go. I packed it up, my kids kissed the envelope, and off it went. This was it. That was that. I was going to be published! Time to start planning the book launch, right?  

Ten months later, approx 300 days, or 7,200 hours, the rejection came. Editor Z had taken the time to write a very kind, gracious, and detailed letter. She made suggestions, but they just weren’t things that my protagonist would do. So, I wrote her a heartfelt note, and let go of the idea of working with her. I was devastated, and I licked my wounds for longer than I’d like to admit.

The thing that bothered me the most, though, was people telling me it was okay. That it was great to have just written a novel and, if it never got published, well…it was still a great accomplishment. I agree. It is. But it annoyed me just the same. I know people were well-meaning, but it felt like permission to give up. So, I took on researching agents like I was training for the Olympics. I had charts, ratings, and notes from writers’ blogs, Publishers Marketplace, and Verla Kay Blue Boards.

I would soon drive five and a half hours to the incomparable Flying Pig Bookstore to meet the agent that held the top spot on my chart. More than one person told me I was crazy for making such a trip. Aside from the distance, she was Erin Murphy. I was told, “She’s a rock star agent!” to which I shrugged. “Why start at the bottom?” Did I think I’d actually sign with her? Maybe not. But I was happy to take the chance to risk the, “No.”

So, you’ve heard my story. What’s yours? Are you close to finishing a ms but can’t quite get to the words, “The End?” Do you talk about querying but never actually push the “send” button? Do you spend a lot of time reading books on craft and not enough time writing? Please read this excerpt from Marianne Williamson’s quote; let every syllable sink in.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…”    (Full quote here. Thanks, Mike!)

I think most writers, artists, musicians and other creative types feel this sometimes; it’s part of being imaginative. For some of us, the difficulty doesn’t lay in the craft of writing, though. Not directly. I think it’s, perhaps, rooted in vulnerability—three facets of it.

The first facet is the upset of having someone not love your work; it’s easy to take this personally. Gosh, most writers and artists can understand that! However, it’s important to stay open to yourself and others during these times. Also, even if we pour our heart and soul into our work, it is still a product to be sold (if your eye is on publication) and that requires some objectivity. If you’re feeling vulnerable? That can be tough.

Secondly, I think those of us who struggled as kids sometimes feel like they are “less than” in some respects. The idea that we could be talented and “powerful beyond measure” can feel odd because, to varying extents, it goes against our emotional grain. It feels unnatural, like driving on the left side of the road or having a cheeseburger for breakfast. Even so, dare to be remarkable!

The final way relates to the work itself, I think. The letting go of the slice of yourself that you may be holding back. The cracking yourself wide open part—that’s your voice. That’s where you mine your gold. The parts of yourself that can make the rejection so hard are the very parts that can take your work to the next level. Maddening, isn’t it?

I can’t tell you not to be afraid, but I can tell you I know how you feel. The reason I revisited this quote after Mike covered it in his post last week, is this: When I first read this quote a few years ago, it triggered my attitude shift. I carried it in my pocket for weeks. It stunned me. Mostly, it saddened me. The quote defies logic, yet I knew it pegged my writing life. I decided that I may not get published, but I didn’t want to look back on all this knowing I’d just given up. And I didn’t want my kids to see me do that either. How many times had I told a disappointed kid who’d almost made a soccer goal, “You’ll get it next time!” I decided there were far worse things than rejection letters or not getting published.

So, ante up. Slide those chips into the center of the table. It’s a small gamble compared to the winnings—pride in knowing you have some gumption. Some guts. All the while, remember, that there are people who want to cheer you on, support you, and celebrate with you—including me! And you know what? If you get rejections, you can handle them. You can. Yeah, I know it’s hard, but you’ll brush yourself off, hone your book, and you’ll ante up again. You will. Just like I did.

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Filed under Agents, Celebrations, rejection and success, Writing, Writing and Life