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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, April 28, 2006


by Ila Campbell

Kick me when I’m down. When it rains it pours. Anything that can go wrong will. The hits just keep on coming.

Yeah. Really cheery. But I admit, that’s the mood I’ve been in this week. I’ve had this impending cloud of doom hovering over me, drizzling its bad luck all over me, and I’m just waiting for either a downpour or a lightning bolt.

I know that’s defeatist thinking, but I’ll tell you why it all came down to this one week:

I’m not published.

Now, this is a condition I’ve been living with for about nine years now, since I started submitting to publishers. I should be used to it now. Developed a thicker skin, learned to roll with the punches. I thought I had. I really did. Until.

Until I got turned down for a promotion this week at my "real" full-time job. The reason? I WASN’T PUBLISHED YET! Exactly. This is the job where I’ve been run ragged trying to do all the new tasks assigned to me this year so that I haven’t written a word in almost three months. Where up until now my writing was held in thinly-disguised scorn because it wasn’t literature with a capital L (I’m in academia), but suddenly both careers careened into each other. My lack of success in one field crossed over into the other. And it was hard to take.

This is the same week that my manuscript at St. Martin’s loses its exclusive. So each morning I’ve also been waiting for an email from my agent saying they’ve finally read it. And hopefully, bought it. There’s about 12 hours left. Will they read it before then? From their track record, I won’t be holding my breath. And the cloud of doom keeps whispering ‘no.’

So all week long I’ve been feeling this pressure to give up writing novels. Surely it would be easier to send out academic papers and get them published and thus succeed in at least one field, right? And it does come down to a choice, since I have three kids in my house. I don’t have time for both. So I should probably do the smart thing – the thing that will keep the raises coming in, give me job security, offer me stable employment when I move back to the States – and focus on language teaching instead of romance novels.

Except I can’t. I can’t give up the one thing in my world that is purely creative and immensely satisfying when it’s going well. I made a choice years ago that the teaching itself and my outside creative interests were more important to me than gaining titles and prestige in the academic world. I also think of all the women that I knew growing up who sacrificed their desires for stability (of marriage, of jobs, whatever). I. JUST. CAN’T. DO. IT.

So I guess I’m just going to go on looking for that silver lining in my cloud of doom. Turn my frown upside down. Tell myself it ain’t over til the fat lady sings.

And wait. With hope.


At 8:48 AM, Blogger bridget said...

Oh Jennifer! The publish or perish syndrome! I'm so sorry you're feeling down, and it's natural you should feel that way. Hugs and more hugs, and I respect you so much for refusing to sacrifice your selfhood on the altar of expediency or convention.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger MaryF said...


At 9:42 PM, Blogger Jennie Lucas said...

Jennifer, you're such a brilliant novelist, you obviously should stick with it! But it must gripe your craw to see other, less talented teachers take promotions that chould be yours. Does it have to be a choice? Maybe when you're between manuscripts, taking a break or trying to come up with your next plot, you could research and write an academic article in your field?

You never know, the two different styles of writing could play off each other. When you're fed up with one, you could procrastinate by working on the other. It could even be fun -- especially the part where you get the semi-quick gratification of writing an article (as opposed to a novel) and wiping the smugness off the faces of academic rivals who are praying you'll never publish.

I hear what you're saying about not having time to do everything. Boy, I understand that! But it sure would be cool. Maybe if you did both things, but just accepted it would take you a little longer?

One other thing: don't let the bastards get ya down about not writing "literature" with a capital L. I hate that stuff -- it's all boring, depressing, pretentious crap where nothing ever happens. Bleh. And this is coming from an English major. The stuff that we read from history (Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Brontes, Dickens) was all the commercial fiction of its time. If you look at most of the "literature with a capital L" from Victorian times, it's so flowery and wordy that no one reads it anymore -- not unless they have to write an academic article on it. *grin*

You, on the other hand, are writing stories that people will actually want to pay you for. It hasn't happened yet, but it will, and guess who'll have the last laugh then?

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I'm so sorry that the dark cloud has been following you around, Jennifer. I think we can all relate on some level, but I sure hope St. Martin's comes through for you. You're due for some wonderfully sunny news.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

Oh, Jennifer... it's a horrific choice, but I know you're making the right one. If you gave up the creativity of novel writing (no matter that it comes with a bucket of publishing-industry poo), it would just gut your soul. That's all there is to it.


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