Monday Musings: The Card, The Shirt, and The Dress
Whew! I’m almost two weeks out from my debut novel releasing and it has been a whirlwind ride. Thank you so much to everyone who reached out to me on social media and here on the blog. I really did try to reply to each comment, and I hope you know how much I appreciate the support.
Today I want to talk about my publishing journey. If you’ve read this blog from its early beginnings in 2012, you know I started out being completely clueless about the publishing game. I made all the rookie mistakes – sending out a terrible query for an equally horrific first novel. Emailing a manuscript to an editor that was formatted completely wrong (single-spacing – what was I thinking???). I even sent out a batch of queries without double-checking the spelling of each agent’s name (yes, I’m cringing right now).
It’s true I’ve stumbled through this journey, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel like each mistake I’ve made has forced me to be stronger. To do a better job of vetting out the business and understand its inner workings. But even if you understand how the business works, it still doesn’t keep you from disappointment and heartbreak.
As the title of today’s blog states, I want to share with you a story about a card, a shirt, and a dress.
Let’s start with the card. One of my favorite publishing blogs is Pub(lishing) Crawl. It has many well-known contributors, including such YA stars as Susan Dennard, Stephanie Garber, and Stacey Lee. The posts vary from craft instruction to personal stories of rejection and triumph.
One particular post hit me hard. It’d been a terrible week. My manuscript for NOTHING BUT SKY had been on sub for a long time and things weren’t going well. I was standing in line waiting to order at a restaurant and scanned my phone to pass the time. I came across a post written by Stacey Lee and Stephanie Garber called “Index Card of Power”. To paraphrase the post, you write down what you want most on the notecard and by doing so it gives you power to let it go. I cried as I read. I’d wanted this publishing dream for a long time but it always seemed beyond my grasp.
Afterwards, I rushed home, found a notecard, and scribbled down the top 3 things I wanted for my writing career. Below is the beloved card which has moved from drawer to drawer over the years. At my lowest moments I wanted to crumple it up and throw it away as it was a constant reminder of everything I couldn’t have. Deep down some part of me knew I needed to keep it no matter how bad things got. I’m so glad I did.
I look at the card now and cry different tears. I’m so grateful for reading the post on that day and for being strong enough to hold onto it even though it was a reminder of all the things I hadn’t achieved.
There is a theme going on here as far as dreams and hopes for NOTHING BUT SKY. In 2014, I was walking through an Anthropologie and came across this shirt.
I was in the first phases of gutting an early draft of NOTHING BUT SKY. At that point I was positive it would never see the light of day because I’d already had 70 agent rejections. And let me point out that was after at least 20 (!!!) had read the full manuscript.
A part of me still believed in the story and I bought the shirt. I wore it occasionally to remind myself how much I loved my little book about a wing walker who wouldn’t give up. But later, in darker days, it would be moved to a coat closet because I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore.
The same tale holds true for a dress I bought from Modcloth in early 2015. I had a friend who saw it online and told me I had to buy it to wear to my launch one day. I was still very cynical about my book, but when the dress went on sale I bought it anyway. It too would hang in my closet for almost two years before it was relegated to the coat closet with the shirt. Again, both of them symbols of a goal gone unachieved.
Here is the light at the end of the tunnel though. In Spring of 2017 an email changed my life. McKelle George, a past editor at Flux, wrote that my book had been approved in acquisitions and was going to be published. I was in the produce section at COSTCO and burst into tears. The poor elderly man picking out apples next to me was very freaked out.
That day (after calling every single member of my family) I went home and opened that coat closet. I yanked out the shirt and the dress and happily rehung them in my closet. Like the card, they would become reminders of everything I’d been through and a point of inspiration as I worked on future edits.
In hindsight one thing has become clear. Even in those dark moments, there was one thing that kept me going. Forced me to sit and write every day. It’s why I scribbled my dreams on a card. Bought the shirt and dress. It was HOPE.
Whether you’ve received 100 rejections from agents, or a dozen editors have passed on your book, my wish is that you’ll still believe in the power of hope and the importance of your work. Keep believing. Keep writing. My eight-year journey proves perseverance wins out.
One final note…
Last week I had my debut launch at Changing Hands in Tempe, Arizona. It was a proud day and you better believe I wore that dress from Modcloth I bought so many years ago!