Originally published on October 18th, 2018 here.
For most of my 14 years as a published author, I’ve run on a fuel made of equal parts ambition and desperation.
My ambition was to become The Next Judy Blume and dominate the world of YA contemporary literature through my Maddie Series books.
My desperation was that I believed, in the most frantic and determined way, that if I followed the letter of the law of those more experienced and successful than I, then I would win the golden ticket (a.k.a. a book contract with one of the Big 5.)
The very first example of that is, after a few years of rejections, I decided to self-publish. This decision came from the advice of A Person In The Know who said that she’d seen people use it as a platform to gain attention from agents.
She was right. This book won a big award and agents started to contact me, and I signed with one of them one only a year after self-publishing. The next piece of advice came from other author friends I made through self-publishing. They said to go to as many SCBWI conferences as possible, so I did. While this didn’t land me a book contract, it helped me to make friends with more published authors. When four years of conferences and working with an agent didn’t move me any closer to a book deal, an author friend told me to get an MFA, focus on craft and revisit the publishing part later. Maybe this would be it! When I started the MFA program in 2009, one of my instructors told me to fire the agent because it had now been 4 years and no book deal, this, according to her, was not a good sign (she was right). So, I fired the agent, finished the MFA (and grew a hell of a lot as a writer!), and followed the advice of another teacher in the program, and upon graduation, submitted to new agents, landing one not even a year after graduation. During my time with the second agent, I revised and rewrote three different manuscripts based on every piece of advice she gave me. As we set out to submit, I thought I am so very close.
I wasn’t. Four years later, I not only didn’t have a book deal but also my spirit was crushed. I had spent from 2003 to 2014 in a desperate chase for the ultimate prize, and I failed to win it.
So, I gave up.
For 2 years I focused on writing for the love of it. I didn’t attend one workshop or conference. I resisted the overwhelming urge to submit to agents and editors because that urge was fueled by desperation (and my ambition caused me nothing but grief by this point) and I was SICK of desperation.
In 2016, I began to submit personal essays that I was really proud of. I carefully researched the market and targeted only those publications that fit my niche.
And it worked. I began to not only get published but also GET PAID (BONUS!)!
That’s when it all became clear: I needed to be deliberate versus desperate, look inward versus outward, listen to my inner voice not just the voices of those around me.
When I decided to sign with Black Rose Writing earlier this year to publish Till It Stops Beating, I didn’t make that decision out of desperation. I made it out of a conscious choice: I no longer wanted to do the pitch/query and wait game, and I no longer believed in the delusions of grandeur I once had: that I would be the next Judy Blume.
Because none of what I had done panned out in a way that was reflective of the amount of hard work, the amount of emotional, financial, or physical sacrifice I spent.
Black Rose Writing isn’t one of the Big 5. It’s a small publisher that works in partnership with its authors to market and publish books. With this publisher, I have support, encouragement, and freedom. This beats false hope and desperate ambition. More importantly, my work is out there for you all to read and that’s really what fuels me now.
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