December 24, 2014

A Special Holiday Made It Moment: Carolyn J. Rose

Filed under: Made It Moments,The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:28 am

The Devil's Tombstone

Hello, dear readers and friends. Thank you for being here today, and on so many other days throughout the year. This blog and all of you kept me going through some very bleak years of struggle and rejection. Together we found joy in the Moments, and it’s a gift I hope might propel along anyone who might be weary or struggling right now.

This holiday season, I offer to you one of Suspense Your Disbelief’s favorites authors and guests, Carolyn Rose. (Here are some of Carolyn’s past selected Moments and Guest Posts.) In addition to writing mysteries across a wide spectrum–from dark to humorous–and even achieving the mighty task of collaborating on books with…wait for it; I didn’t get to the mighty party yet…her own husband, Carolyn knows from writing ups and downs and career changes and transformations. Today she gathers some of them up, and offers us a chance to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished, even when we’re not sure we’ve accomplished anything at all.

That’s the spirit of the Made It Moments. It’s the spirit you’ve all shared with me. Thank you. And happy holidays!

PS: There will be physical gifts, too! Leave a comment reflecting on your own moment of made-it-ness, and Carolyn and I will offer up digital and print copies of her books with only a little less largesse than Santa (or Chanukah Harry)!

Carolyn J. Rose

A Round of Made It Moments for the House!

Back in 2010, Jenny Milchman graciously gave me space on this blog to write about Hemlock Lake and its long road to publication. (Short summary: years of queries, rejections, close calls, near misses, a traditional-publishing sale, rejection of a second book, reversion of rights, and self-publishing.)

Since then, I’ve followed her blog and the stories shared by hundreds of writers who broke through, broke out, broke away, broke new ground, or went for broke.

Congratulations to all of them.

And congratulations to every writer out there. Chances are you had at least one moment of made-it-ness this year—whether you realized it or not.

Did you keep a promise to yourself and finish the book you always wanted to write?
Did you give it all you had?
Did you refuse to set aside your dream and go on even when you were discouraged?
Did you help or encourage another writer?
Did you get your work out so readers could discover it?
Did you get a positive review from a stranger?
Did you get a negative review, get over it, and go on?
Did you participate in a community of writers?
Did you savor each success no matter how tiny?
Did you learn something from each setback?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then in my mind you had a made it moment.

Now, I’m not saying “Lower the bar for made it moments.” Not at all. I’m saying take a look at that bar. Ask yourself who set that bar, when, and why. Don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t been able to jump as high as someone else. Consider how high you have jumped.

And consider this—the mental images for “made it” that we conjure up at age 20 may be far different from what we envision at 40 or 60 or 80. As we age, accomplish, and adjust, we may neglect to revisit and revise those images. The world has changed dramatically in the past few decades and the rate of change seems to be accelerating. There have been many shifts in the publishing landscape as well, and many more books now available through different channels.

And consider whether there may be more to “making it” than grabbing that big brass ring, winning a national award, getting another zero on a contract, or reaching a stratospheric sales goal. Having a spotlight beamed on achievement is awesome, but without an inner light, it might be pretty darn dark when you leave the stage.

Competition is healthy and energizing. Crossing the finish line ahead of the pack is a terrific achievement. But without the ability to appreciate the race you ran and be satisfied with the effort you put forth, victory may seem hollow.

Now, some will contend that staying hungry is the way to go. They’ll argue that being satisfied and content is the same as being willing to settle for the status quo and maybe even lapsing into a state of languid laziness. They’ll say that won’t get you to the next made it moment.

But for me, contentment is a secure place that offers shelter, food, drink, a launch pad, and a safety net all at the same time. Contentment is the payoff for a made it moment. Contentment is what allows me to savor the journey so far and gather my energy for the next leap. It’s the flame that powered the books I wrote after Hemlock Lake, including the sequels, Through a Yellow Wood and The Devil’s Tombstone (coming in the final days of 2014) It’s the well I’ll draw from for the project I’m beginning now, the fourth in my Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy series.

How about you?

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone – due out at the end of 2014). Other works include projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.


  1. I love this. It’s hard for me to celebrate my wins, big or little. I’ve had a terrific year and yet, I’m not sure I celebrated my releases or making of a list. Or even getting a book submitted on deadline.

    So before the end of the year, I will do something special just for me to celebrate 2014 and my author life. Just not sure yet what it will be….Probably chocolate. :)

    Comment by Lynn Cahoon — December 24, 2014 @ 10:50 am

  2. Last year I turned fifty. I decided to write what I wanted, at the pace I wanted. I chose to season during this turning-point, season as wood seasons left to dry over a year so it can burn more cleanly. I thought I might finish a novel and make inroads on a memoir, but I also asked myself if I would be content with neither; if I only reached the next birthday clearer in my mind about what I wanted to say so I could say those things more bravely. I did. And I made some measurable progress as well. But those pages are only symbols of the real achievement.

    Comment by Katherine West — December 24, 2014 @ 11:29 am

  3. The made-it moment that stands out most clearly for me was this:
    I had been trying to find a publisher for my first Malone mystery for a long time. Actually, I was going about it all the wrong way but I didn’t realize that at the time.
    One day, feeling discouraged, I stopped to have a cup of coffee in an attempt to relax and let it all go. Right before my eyes (and I’m not making this up), the word FAITH appeared in bold black letters. At that moment, I felt an incredible peace; I knew everything would work out. Two days later, Mixed Messages was accepted for publication!

    Comment by Patricia Gligor — December 24, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

  4. Wow! Great moment. Much success to you and Mixed Messages.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — December 24, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

  5. I finally finished my first book! It’s a book that I’ve had in my head for 4 years, and I have to tell you, it was so much fun. It’s on to revising and editing, now, but I’ve also started the next book! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah my friends! Be blessed beyond measure in the next year.

    Comment by Shari — December 24, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

  6. That is a wonderful sign, and moment in your journey, Patricia! Thanks for sharing it…

    Comment by jenny — December 24, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

  7. I love this list of Made-it-ness moments! Thank you for the inspiration, Carolyn. For me, Made It means that I keep at it. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep learning. No huge banners to wave about my accomplishments this year, but I am improving my craft every month, and that feels like something worth celebrating. Wishing you many more Made-It moments in 2015!

    Comment by Windy Lynn Harris — December 24, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

  8. Wendy – seems like you have lots of little banners – so stitch them all together into one big one you can wave. And wave it with pride and joy as you keep on keepin’ on.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — December 24, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

  9. Made it, to me means reaching personally set goals and not being gobstruck by whatever measure of commercial success you think signals the end of the tunnel. Write because you want to and because you want to improve with each outing. Whatever follows that is out of our control. I finished a screenplay and a stage play in 2014. I’ve entered the screenplay in some big competitions, only to become an also-ran. I’m looking for ways to market the stage play or enter it in competitions. Perhaps I’ll engineer a staged reading with some local theater folks during 2015. But whatever happens with these two works, they’re mine and I have a deep level of satisfaction with having finished them. That’s my definition of “made it.”

    Comment by Mike Nettleton — December 24, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

  10. Absolutely LOVE that definition! And happy holidays to you.

    -Did you keep a promise to yourself and finish the book you always wanted to write?
    -Did you give it all you had?
    -Did you refuse to set aside your dream and go on even when you were discouraged?
    -Did you help or encourage another writer?
    -Did you get your work out so readers could discover it?
    Not yet, but next year we go out on submission!
    -Did you get a positive review from a stranger?
    -Did you get a negative review, get over it, and go on?
    Not yet.
    -Did you participate in a community of writers?
    -Did you savor each success no matter how tiny?
    I try!

    Comment by Savvy — December 24, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

  11. Savvy – great going! Keep up the made-it-ness in 2015!

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — December 24, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

  12. Wonderful article for this fab blog. I am so glad you have achieved so much of what you wanted. Congratulations. I too had Made It Moments here with Jenny and received some wonderful feedback – so encouraging – and that is what we all need. It helped me no end. In September last year I had another Made It Moment when I was signed to Accent Press – my first proper publishing deal. Thanks for sharing your fab post, enjoyed it so much and thanks Jenny, as ever, for a wonderful blog introducing so many new writers to me (us). :)

    Comment by Jane Risdon — January 8, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  13. You go, all you making it women and men! Jane, that is GREAT news, and Savvy and Windy, too. So glad some of your making it took place on this blog, Jane.

    And Mike, can’t wait to hear what your play does and where it goes!

    Comment by Jenny Milchman — January 8, 2015 @ 10:32 am

  14. Nice post.

    Comment by Theresa de Valence — January 8, 2015 @ 10:54 am

  15. Excellent post, Carolyn. Looking back over the years, I remember many small moments that felt like Made It Moments. They seem to add up to a big one. I guess my biggest moment will be if I ever figure out a promotional idea that will be foolproof. No, just knowing that someone has read my books and enjoys them is the biggest Moment. Thank you for making me stop and think about what’s important.

    Comment by Marja McGraw — January 8, 2015 @ 1:15 pm

  16. Jane – I was struck by the word “feedback” because that’s so important to our growth as writers.

    Marja – if you find that foolproof idea and make a fortune, I challenge you to spend it buying books from everyone who has ever posted or left a comment on Jenny’s blog. (LOL)

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — January 8, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

  17. Jenny – thanks for letting me spout off.
    Windy – apologies for calling you Wendy – gotta get new glasses.
    Everyone – keep on keepin’ on in 2015. That’s what I intend to do.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — January 9, 2015 @ 10:56 am

  18. If I had any kind of made-it moment, it had nothing to do with writing. It had to do, instead, with living. I had a multitude of knee/leg problems which pretty much had limited me to barely moving, which lead to barely living. I had numerous knee surgeries, finalizing in a knee replacement, which was botched, causing me to have another shortly after. I knew I needed more surgeries, but what I had gone through was so traumatic and ended so badly–I had use of the leg, but not much–that I simply refused to face any more, and gave up. For over 10 years, I just existed and kept on, best I could. Then 2 years ago, my husband had a health scare that rocked my world. It turned out okay, but I knew that I needed to make some changes. I had the other knee replaced, then a hip. My ortho doctor didn’t tell me until afterwards, luckily, that he didn’t think I’d gain that much because of how bad my knee & hip had gotten. While I’ll never run, and certainly will never be a ballerina, I can walk short distances and I’m getting stronger every day. So although it has nothing to do with books, I think that’s MY made-it moment!

    Comment by Linda Brue — January 11, 2015 @ 12:55 am

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