Lorelle--The Twelve-Year Overnight SuccessMy adventure into writing began as a way for me to find a profitable occupation while staying at home with my kids. Go ahead laugh. You have my permission. It was 1995, my youngest was eighteen months old. I figured I could probably achieve my goal by the time she was in first grade. Ha! It took twelve long years, seven manuscripts with many rewrites, and me pretty much writing full time to reach my goal. In the process, I was bitten by the writing bug. Being the compulsive Virgo that I am, writing soon became an addiction. When I was not writing, I was reading about writing and studying the craft. Writing was a new medium for me. My background is in visual arts. I had so much to learn. The only edge I had was a mother with a Masters in English Literature who had been correcting my speech for forty years--and my grandfather's gift for storytelling.
After 9 years of diligently pursuing my goal, I realized I was hitting a wall. My work crossed genres. I was still writing stories with strong romantic elements, but the focus had changed to small towns and families with a heroine's journey at the center. I needed to submit my work to a mainstream editor. I took a shot at a local multi-genre conference and submitted my first ten pages of my sixth manuscript, WALTZING WITH ALLIGATORS, to a mainstream editor. It worked and she requested the full.
Early one Sunday morning, two weeks later, I was opening a rejection from an agent who’d been looking at my work for the past two years. The envelope had been sitting there for several days waiting for me to get up the courage to hear the bad news. The agent loved my voice, but didn't know where to send my cross-genre work. I was wallowing in my disappointment when, I received an email from the editor. Did I mention this was early Sunday morning? My hardworking editor had taken half of my manuscript home on Friday night and had run back to the office to print out the rest so she could finish reading it. Yikes! Talk about pins and needles. She said she’d call the next day.
The printer was downstairs on the opposite end of the house from my computer. It took two frantic trips downstairs to print the email correctly, which I had to read in hard copy before I could believe my eyes. Remember, seconds earlier I had read doom and gloom from the agent I had been courting for two years who told me there was no market for my work. I remember shoving the editor's email at my husband who'd woken up to see why I was running up and down the stairs like a crazed poodle in my bathrobe and slippers.
I was pretty much speechless when she called the next day. It was basically who-are-you-and-what-are-your-hopes-and-dreams call. A few more reads were needed from other editors before a decision could be made. Oh the waiting! Just shoot me now! If you've been sitting on the edge of publication for any length of time, you know what I mean. Four long days passed until THE CALL. I was still pretty much speechless. I was a twelve-year overnight success. I gone from a tough rejection just days earlier to a sale to a dream publisher.
There were a couple things that kept me going through the years of rejection. If you’ve ever been a Golden Heart finalist, you know all about rejection—the dark side of the glory that no one talks about. You really have to put yourself out there in the four-month window of opportunity. Rejections come fast and furious, sometimes more than one a day, if you’re unagented.
During that time, I learned that I had to believe in my work and myself, even if no one else did. New York Times bestselling author, Jenny Crusie, taught me that it can’t matter to you whether you are published or not. You have to write the books you have to write, tell the stories you were born to tell. It’s about the writing and being true to who you are, not writing to trends to make a quick sale.
However, I must warn you, even if you manage to adopt a detached attitude in this business, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be disappointed when you receive a rejection. Rejection hurts no matter where you are on the publishing scale. It takes a certain amount of arrogance to be a writer. You have to believe in yourself and your stories when the rest of the world seems determined to knock you down. Keep the faith and push ahead.