Last night I spoke to a Creative Writing class at a local community college, and on Monday I'm leading a workshop (Titled "7 years + 300 rejections = 1 published novel") for the Missouri Association of School Librarians--and the topic at hand is how did I ever manage to get published?? That seems to be the leading question when people first find out I'm a published author (and, I like to think they are asking globally, rather than "How did YOU get published?"). So, here's my story . . .
I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I spent hours as a kid filling notebooks with stories. I still have all the horrible teenage-girl poems I wrote about Todd and Mark and Ron. Oh, and war. I took creative writing classes in college (but I worried that I'd had a pretty healthy childhood and the lack of dysfunction in my life would hold me back). Then I got married and had babies. I was busy. But still, I wrote. Letters. Paragraphs that struck me. And I read. Eventually, my husband left for younger pastures, I raised my sons, taught high school and got a Master's Degree. Occasionally I'd mention to a friend that I wanted to write a novel. As I approached the end of my 30s, I realized I could keep saying that I wanted to write a novel or I could JUST DO IT. So, I did. I started going to writing conferences, I bought books on how to find an agent, and I wrote a first draft the summer before I turned 40.
Over the next 7 years, I wrote and revised and filled in the holes. I sent off letters and more letters (Always with a SASE. Always resulting in another rejection. I like to think I was really bad at writing query letters). I continued to go to conferences and meeting people. Finally, in the summer of 2004 I took the big leap and went to a summer writing workshop at the University of Iowa I met an editor who loved my work and offered to introduce me to an agent. When I got done kissing his feet, I said yes. The first agent I sent the manuscript to called with an offer of representation (and yes, I felt like I'd been sprinkled with fairy dust or something). We sold it to Ballantine 4 months later and then 18 months later it was in the stores. I still get a kick out of seeing it on the shelves. (I keep hoping I'll see someone--on a plane, maybe--reading it. But I'm also afraid if that ever happens I'll accost the poor soul in my excitement.)
So, that's my story--filled with hopes and disappointments and people helping me along the way, and finally, having a dream that began when I was a skinny nine year-old girl, come true in ways I'd never imagined.
Now, I need to get back to work on the next book, currently titled Unexpected Grace. Next time you hear from me, I'll be 47. I'm sure you'll notice the huge leap in maturity!