Monday, October 13, 2014

20 years of writing: a long, difficult road

Writing for publication, that is. I've really been writing for much longer than 20 years if you count any creative writing that wasn't done for a school assignment...including schmarmy poetry and stories that led nowhere fast that I penned in elementary school.

And it's not actually 20 years, but because I started querying in 1993 and the first two pieces I submitted were published in 1995, the mid-point is 1994, which would be 20 years.

I hadn't looked at my records in a long time, but I was pleasantly surprised to re-read them. The letters I got from the Indiana DNR were so flattering, I really should frame them.

This was the acceptance letter:
"...the quality was exceptional!" - I should read this line every time I get a rejection
This is actually the first letter I got from them, and they sent the one above after I replied and said I'd be happy to have them keep it on file for future use:
"'re one of the best writers to approach us lately." - so good for the ego
About the same time that I queried IN DNR, I sent out my first piece of fiction to Ladybug Magazine. It was a story I'd written for the ICL course I'd taken the previous year. The lovely Paula Morrow called me and asked if it was still available (yes, I screamed with joy after I hung up).
 Here's the first page of the story:
one never gets tired of bylines
I must have been on a roll back then. Even my rejection letters were good. See the hand-written note at the bottom? "The story is artfully written - very much so -- Please do try again."
Thus began my foray into writing. Unfortunately, while my writing career started on a high note, there were many depressing low ones in between too. While I never really stopped writing, I stopped submitting for a while.

It wasn't until the past 5 years that things started happening and chugging along again. For that I have to thank The Minnows Literary Group (and Michaela Rossner from Gotham Writers Workshop), my in-person SCBWI group (we need a name, people), and the Penguin Posse - my online critique group (and the 12x12 Challenge), and, my agent, Ella Kennen.

It's enough to make one sing!
So, have heart, if you have only begun writing (or whatever you've decided to do) in the last several years and haven't "hit the big times" yet. Be patient. Don't give up. You will eventually find your groove. Unless you're one of the lucky and talented few whose stars all align like a bunch of stellar schoolgirls in a Madeline story from the get-go, sometimes, it can take a couple of decades to hit the publishing sweet spot, that place where you have arbitrarily defined success, be it having an agent or being picked out by a big publishing house.

Has your career, or a change in life direction, started out promisingly and then took a turn for worse before becoming better?

(I used the PS Express blotter function to blot out the addresses, which is why some parts of the letters look funny.)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams