Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2: Years Ago, Still the Past

This is part two. Check out Monday for part one.

You start writing another book. It’s about your brother, but you don’t realize that until the end.

In the spring of your first year teaching, you go to a conference. There’s a pitch session at the conference. You practice for the whole month before that, in front of the mirror, while driving to work, in your head during your planning period. You make huge packets of samples, copies of the whole book on CD, business cards, signed bookmarks, and all kinds of things.

At the conference, no one wants the stuff. Not even the tiny business cards.

You’re nervous when you pitch. You’ve memorized it, but you forget it all when faced with the gods of publishing. You make rookie mistakes—mentioning the books you’ve shelved, mistaking common terms in the business. Some agents are interested anyway. They give you their cards, and you will query them in the coming weeks, and not a single one of them will ever reply, even with a form rejection.


There’s an editor. From one of the Big Six publishing house. She’s interested. She’s funny. She wants the partial. When you send it, she quickly asks for a full. When you send that, she returns with a 12 page edit letter. Make the revisions, she says, and we’ll talk contracts.

You’re on cloud nine. You worry about doing the job quickly. You take time off work. You finish in a few weeks. You think it’s perfect. You rush to the mailbox and send it off.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

You email her after months, asking for an update.

You pace in front of the school by the bushes before a basketball game.

You’re rejected.

For the first time, you start to think you’re not good enough.

You’re angry, as well as sad. So you try to figure out what went wrong.

You realize that you didn’t go far enough in the edits. You did a halfway job in your rush, and you regret it. But it’s too late now.

You join critique groups. You post samples on online forums designed to critique.

One person says your story is the worst he’s ever read. He questions whether you should ever write. He suggests you destroy the manuscript, never send it out, and quit writing. He says there is nothing of value in anything on the page you sent.

You enter contests. You never win any of them.

After entering—and losing—the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, you hook up with people on the forum who also lost, and start a critique group.

You start to realize where you went wrong.

You regret your past mistakes.

You rewrite and rewrite, then put some of the stories to bed.

You start to blog. No one cares. No one comments. You blog for months before you get a comment. You blog for over half a year before you have what could be called regular readers. Other people, who seem to have been doing half as much for half as long, get agents and contracts and deals. You get so jealous, you’re sick to your stomach.

You tell yourself: you can be a teacher and a writer at the same time, and you pray for nights on end that is the truth.


Jodi Meadows said...


Holding my breath for more.

Jade said...

These posts are amazing.

At least I know it ends happily!!

salarsenッ said...

You took my breath away.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Wow - you've gone through so much, and kept writing. I don't know if I could face that rejection - especially if someone told me I shouldn't write - and keep going. I guess I would have to, because being a writer isn't exactly something you can back away from... but still. You're an inspiration, honestly.

Matthew Rush said...

That sounds so frustrating but of course assuming this is about you and all true at least we know it ends wonderfully!

Karen Akins said...

This is reading like a thriller. And I'm just nodding my head and tearing up and empathizing each step of the way. Can't wait to keep reading. :)

Kristi Helvig said...

Don't you wish you could contact the guy who told you that you shouldn't write again and send him the Publishers Marketplace deal listing?

I didn't think I could be any happier for you, but after reading this, I am. :)

Marcia said...

Thanks for writing this. It's important. Because of your success in getting a great agent and a deal, some are going to assume you did it overnight, you didn't struggle, you didn't have to wait long enough, you were charmed, etc. They need to know what it's really like. And those who want to write need to know there's hope.

storyqueen said...

I, too, am a teacher and a writer. The hard thing about doing both is that they both demand your soul.

And you have only one soul.

So, it's hard not to get sucked dry.......

Loving these posts.


Jess said...

These post are amazing. My best friend is a teacher, and I know how much it takes out of her. Your tenacity and hope is an inspiration. I can't wait to read the rest of your journey!

Cat said...

I'm a mother and a writer which is similar. So I very much understand the way you have taken and why.

Do you know what really sucks though? Having a contract with a publication date and than the whole publishing house is turned topsy-turvy because it is swallowed by a bigger house - and your contract gets canceled in the upheaval.

Or, having proof-read the galleys and then -without warning- the publisher folds.

So, you're the lucky one.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Heart-wrenching, sitting on edge of the seat...and I know the happy ending. This is gripping and so wonderful for you to share.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Loving these posts. I think I would have crumbled into a ball if someone told me I shouldn't write. You are the highest form of awesome. :)

Misty Waters said...

These posts are great! I can't wait to hear the end. *wags finger* Which better be a happy ending or else!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

here's to you and I first commenting on each other's blogs in the very beginning :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, my gosh! I am loving these. I went back and read yesterday's too - you have me on the edge of my seat. Way to build the suspense! :-)

Theresa Milstein said...

My heart broke for you when the full got rejected. My blood boiled for you when that jerk told you it was the worst book he'd ever read and that you should give up writing.

Becoming a better writer is a process. We all have to start somewhere. You proved him wrong!

Amanda J. said...

I with Jade, these are amazing, and they're breaking my heart. But I'm glad I know it ends well. Not everything gets better, but some of it does. A lot. :)

Jamie Grey said...

Wow - this is fantastic to read...I've been exactly there and know so many of these feelings. I'm so excited to get to the happy ending :)

Melissa said...

Holy. Your talent just bleeds through these emotional pieces. It's heartbreaking. But there's also hope (not because we know how it ends) because even in this I can see your perseverance, I can see why you do succeed in the end.

And it's so inspiring.

MC Rogerson said...

Your story is inspirational, Beth. You're a kind person with a bright future and I wish you all the best.

Melissa said...

I really admire how you kept moving forward despite all of those setbacks. I'm so glad you're doing these posts. They are truly inspirational.

Carolyn V. said...

I love these Beth! They are completely how I feel. You are amazing. Thanks so much for sharing. =)

Myrna Foster said...

You're making me wish I'd found your blog a long time ago. That guy was a jerk. People like that shouldn't be allowed on critiquing boards.

Jemi Fraser said...

This is really interesting Beth - I'm enjoying your journey. Looking forward to the next installment.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this to inspire the rest of us to keep plodding on.

Alexa said...

Brilliant posts! I just read yesterdays and todays and I am gripped. Love the second person it makes it even more heartbreaking.

So glad I know the ending, I'm interested to see how you get ther though.

Trisha Pearson said...

Wow - I love your honesty. These are great posts. And, if I didn't tell ya before, congratulations on your book deal! I can't wait to read your book.

Karen Lange said...

Glad you pressed on! Looking forward to the next part:)

Vonna said...

Bless your heart. I'm so glad to know this story has a happy ending.

PJ Hoover said...

Love your posts, Beth! These are such wonderful internal glimpses into you (whom I adore :) )

Demon Hunter said...

And that guy? I wonder if he's published? Hope he read about what you've accomplished.

Keep it coming, Beth. Wow. ;-)

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Another beautiful post Beth. I can't wait for tomorrows. (And I'm starting to feel REALLY guilty about my writing journey--though I have yet to find success. But still...)

Miriam S. Forster said...

Again, I wish for a time machine so I could hug you.

Does it help that I'm sometimes totally jealous of YOU'RE blog? Not in a way that makes me love you any less, but still...

lotusgirl said...

tears in the eyes, girl, tears in the eyes. I'm on the edge of my seat and I know how this ends.

Christina Farley said...

Okay, I'm laughing over that guy. Laugh. ING! I can't stop.

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