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Like many authors who have come to Made It Moments, Janet Oakley’s was a twisting path. But she sunk down roots in this writing world–much like the tree in her title–and when the e-volution arrived, Janet was poised to take advantage of it. Along the way she discovered that *how* you get published is less important than the responses you get from readers–and Janet describes this in her Moment much better than I.
There is no doubt the road to publication can be one long slog. And on the way you can lose heart. Though I had short pieces published in my local newspaper’s call for essays, the queries I sent out for my novels resulted in rejections. There were ups- my first novel, The Jossing Affair was a finalist at the Pacific NW Writers Conference and a second novel, Tree Soldier, received similar attention. I even had requests for full and partials, but no agent or publication. Things changed when I submitted personal memoir essays to the Cup of Comfort series. Five were published in five different books. One won the top prize in non-fiction at Surrey International Writers Conference. I was also getting historical articles published on-line at Historylink.org. I was clearly on the right path. And I made sure to celebrate each little publication success. I began to call myself a writer, but I still couldn’t get an agent.
In 2008, I entered Tree Soldier into the ABNA contest. Then I put it up at Authonomy. In doing so, I got a whole new perspective on writing and publishing. I got great comments and suggestions. And I made wonderful friends. Most of all, I got the confidence to self-publish the novel and find out what was going on in the totally game changing world of e-books and POD.
Tree Soldier was published in March 2011. This, one would think, would be my Made It Moment–but not yet. There was still marketing and getting the word out. Just as I was getting ready for my first book talk at my local indie bookstore, a request came from my book club to read it as one of our book selections. I was never so nervous in my life. This is no ordinary book club. Every one of these women have been reading teachers or heavily involved in literacy in the elementary grades. They are avid readers and what we read are some of the best in the last 15 years. To have them take on my book was both exciting and intimidating? Would they like it? Or find it a bore? After two nerve-wracking weeks, I finally began getting emails from them. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Just a day after I gave my book talk at Village Books, my book club gathered to discussed my novel. To be honest, I don’t think anything has meant more to me than their positive support and gushing over sentences and characters in Tree Soldier. To get their respect…well that was a Moment for sure.
With their enthusiastic comments, the library has been propelled to put together a book club kit. Four book clubs have read or are reading my book. And that’s my Made It Moment. Not to mention that now I understand why word of mouth is such a powerful marketing tool!
JL Oakley has published essays on topics ranging from the dreams of four generations of women in her family to doing drywall after the sudden loss of her husband. “Dry Wall in the Time of Grief” was the winner in non-fiction at Surrey International Writers in 2006. Her articles on Washington State history are at Historylink.org. Her novels THE JOSSING AFFAIR and TREE SOLDIER were finalists at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest. TREE SOLDIER is also a finalist in historical fiction for the 2012 EPIC Awards.
JL lives in the Pacific Northwest and writes every day. No matter what.