I know, I had trouble figuring out the name for this post myself.
I hope I came up with three iconic things that will make sense once I start typing.
It took me about as long to find a publisher as it did to find my soul mate. A little longer, but not much.
I’m dating the soul mate search from one day in eighth grade when I spun a long fantasy about my social studies teacher, who greeted me and the guy I was crushing on and said something like, “I always knew you two were meant for each other.”
OK, sure, it was the teen romances I gobbled by the dozens–Sweet Valley High, Sweet Dreams, Silhouette, does anyone besides me remember these?–and the model of my mom and dad, each other’s one and onlies, and married almost 49 years now, but I always thought the first guy I really dated would wind up being my husband.
And he was. It just took me 9 years more to find him.
What’s the relevance, you’re wondering, to this blog?
Well, here’s the thing. Even though I was only a college senior when we met and a recent grad when we got engaged that July, I *felt* as if I’d been looking forever. There were lots of letdowns and bitter disappointments and feeling lost and lonely along the way.
And I vowed that once it happened, and I became someone I could hardly imagine myself being–or even really relate to–that I would never forget what it was like to be single and hurting.
And I haven’t. I can still feel those times, I can still go out with my single or newly divorced or struggling in marriage friends and genuinely commiserate.
So is it with that other great divide–publication.
As most of you know from other posts, I’ve found a publisher now. An editor who believes in my work. I just sent her a card, and writing it didn’t feel *much* less meaningful to me than saying my marriage vows. When I found it, a piece of art with the word ‘begin‘ practically carved into the layers of color, and lace, and sparkle, I began to cry right there in the aisle.
It’s easy right now to say I haven’t forgotten anything, especially that feeling of not knowing if your work will ever find a home–but I promise the same thing will be true when as many years have passed published as not.
And after that.
I will always remember. I will always be able to empathize enough to offer support and hopefully concrete help to anyone else on this crazy road.
But just to make sure, I thought I’d jot down a few memories of my lowest points trying to get published over the past 11 years.
Like the games of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, bonfires of photos and mementos with the girls, or dudes we make small copies of so we can stick a pin into their nether regions (sorry, guys…not *you*) some of these times may be recognizable to other writers.
So, low points on the road to publication…
- There was the time I was sure, absolutely positive, despite the monumental odds against me, that my novel was destined to win ABNA. That’s why I’d never gotten published all these years! It was because I was due to take the rose-strewn walk across that Seattle stage (*is* there a stage in Seattle?) to accept my award. And then it seemed that my husband had messed up my entry–included my name, grounds for automatic disqualification. And I howled, a bleat of pure, sheer despair, loud enough to wake (and scare) my children. Well, my husband hadn’t actually messed anything up. And I didn’t win anyway, or even come close.
- My second agent decided she had come to the end of our road one morning when my husband was pulling out of the driveway to go to work. My kids, then not even 2 and 4, awaited. A whole day of reading stories, and fixing snack, and dancing till we got dizzy, and I knew that I. just. couldn’t. do. it. Couldn’t do anything at all. Couldn’t keep an agent. Couldn’t run my day. “Come back,” I mouthed against the window as my husband started the car. And he did.
- One night I sat in the bath and my agent called and I spoke to her from in the tub. She was actually calling to give me good news–an editor at William Morrow was interested in my first novel, which my agent had submitted second. But this was still a low point because when I said words to the effect of, “Finally. Thank goodness. Because I can’t go through [another failed sub] again,” my agent replied kindly, “Well, Jenny, there are no guarantees.” And there weren’t. That novel, too, failed ultimately to sell.
- The agent who rejected me after asking for one page, one chapter, three chapters, then more, all drawn out over the course of months approaching a year–before rejecting the whole manuscript. She was right to. But that didn’t make it any easier when I saw that whole period slipping like sand back into the sea I was facing.
- The stack, twenty high or higher, of beautiful, snail mail queries, on 100% cotton bond, with clear address labels, and stamps that featured great writers–can you say OCD??–and Every Single One came back no.
- The novel–a whole novel–I couldn’t interest a single agent in even though the great Jackie Mitchard herself called to say it was terrific. “Won’t sell,” she said. “But it’s terrific.” She too was right, though it took me a year + and over eighty queries to accept it.
There are other lower than low points, I am sure. I’m sure they will come to me, and I promise I will never forget.
But since the only thing that really gets us through–the only thing that worked for me anyway–was communing with other people who know–for now, what are yours?