Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, about a month ago (roughly), I thought I was a writer. A real writer, not just the kind that plucks away at the keys on her laptop, does a brief spellcheck (or not), hits "publish," and then goes merrily on her way.

I thought maybe I'd try something different. Something I'd been itching to do but never got around to doing. Something daring, bold and adventurous!

Since my husband was away at a N.A.S.C.A.R. (Non Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks) race for a few days, I had found that time. I sat down at my computer and researched "literary agencies." Upon much investigation, I closed my eyes, spun around twice and pointed my finger at the screen. The first one I landed on, or near, would be the one I would submit my query to and I was off!

I wrote a brief description of my work and emailed it to the proper people. Then I went to bed and forgot all about it.

The very next day, much to my amazement, I had an email from the agency I'd contacted. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, figuring it was awfully soon to be getting my rejection notice, and I opened the email.

It was a very nicely written note explaining that while this particular publisher wasn't a good fit for my work, they were passing my query along to a "traditional" publisher whom they were certain would be interested.

"Okay - foot, meet door," I thought to myself as I assembled a long line of toaster waffles for my hungry children and poured myself a big cup of coffee (yes, I drink coffee now - I figured if I wanted to be a writer I'd better learn to love coffee or I'd surely fail).

A few days later, on an actual business day, not the weekend, I got another email. The "traditional" publisher was interested in seeing more of my work and learning about me. Detailed questions were asked and answered. Quick replies were given on my part and I began to feel what would become the all-too familiar feeling of nervous anticipation for the next few weeks.

I sent all 37,000 of my words away and I waited.

During this time I began to daydream. I'd imagine myself sitting in a bookstore, drinking coffee (of course!) and signing copies of my hugely successful mothering memoir a la Carrie Bradshaw. I imagined travelling to New York City with my family one week, Chicago with my best friend the next, on publicity tours for said book.

We'd sight see, meet fabulous people, stay in hotels and live the big life. This would be what the rest of my life would look like and one day, I'd be sitting on the bedside tables of every harried mother as a reminder that mothering, when taken with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila if that's your thing), could actually be enjoyable.

Another week passed. The deadline they'd given me was up, so I contacted them.

Very politely, I informed the person in charge that it'd been x amount of days and I still hadn't heard a thing. I'd been instructed to do this in his email congratulating me on being given the chance to work with them further.

Promptly I received an email from a "reviewer" who said, basically, that she was sorry she hadn't gotten to me yet, but to be patient and her review of my manuscript would be forthcoming.

So I began to dream of New York City and places unknown, shoes unpurchased and Broadway shows yet attended again . . .

This morning I received the review of my manuscript. They liked it, but it did need editing (well, yeah, that's why I sent it to someone who said they were experts in turning manuscripts into successful books). I was free, of course, to chose my own editor, but they'd gladly recommend theirs, whom they knew was reputable and worked fast, for 2 cents per word.

I did the math in my head. "Hmmmmm," I thought, "$75 for editing, doesn't seem too bad to me."

Add another zero to that.

I never claimed to be good at math.

I decided to see if I could polish up my manuscript and I spent all day checking grammar, syntax and spelling. I emailed an author friend and asked her a few questions. I emailed my brother and my parents and asked them what they thought.

I was still envisioning my kids faces on the front of the next best-seller and that feeling of nervous anticipation was only getting worse.

I did a little more digging around and so did the friend I'd contacted. Between the two of us, we discovered that the agency I'd submitted my work to was under attack at a writer's forum. I read thread after thread after thread of discussion and references to this so-called "traditional" publisher. Red flag after red flag was referenced and I began to feel something other than what could be called nervous anticipation. I began to feel sick.

The good news is that I haven't lost anything, other than my time. I did not pay to have the editor they recommended critique my work. I did not pay a fee to have my work reviewed and I am still in contact with the publisher, in the off chance that I will learn more about this business, if anything at all, from my experience.

I know that I usually tell what I think are funny stories about my kids, my husband or my dog, but right now, at this very moment, I need to share this.

I read so many amazing words on these blogs and I can't believe the talent and wit of all of you out there. I am constantly taken aback by your words. The words that you created on your keyboards. The words that you may or may not have needed to edit before hitting "publish" and sharing them with the entire world. They are good words. They are valuable words. Most importantly, they are your words.

I've read a lot lately about how "mommy bloggers" are at each other's throats over the successes of one another or the ad revenue that someone brings in. People, it doesn't matter.

If you love to write, than write.

If you love to share, than share.

If you want to take a chance, do it.

But be aware. Be aware that it isn't all cupcakes and glitter and sparkling white teeth out there. If you want to take your writing to that next level, even if on a whim, be smart about it and try to keep your head out of the clouds.

You never know, with a little work, it could be your book sitting on the bedside tables of mothers far and wide. You could be the next big thing. Stranger things have happened, I mean, Bush did get re-elected.

You could get lucky or you could work your ass off and have nothing to show for it but 37,000 words in a word document.

And that's okay too.

Because if you love what you do, you should do it.

I am going to tuck this icky feeling I have away for now. I am going to fold the last load of laundry, as it is the only productive thing I've done all day, other than feed my kids, and I am going to call it a night. I'll peek in on the boys, kissing the foreheads that are getting older each day. I'll ruffle the dogs fur, even though doing so may cause even more of it to fly around my house. And I'll crawl into my bed, next to the daughter that I placed there hours ago, instead of her own bed - where she should be (it's been a long day for both of us).

And I'll try not to think too much about it tomorrow when I'm scoring baseball.


3XMom said...

Hey congratulations on even getting out there and putting together 37,000 words and sending it out! Hang in there..you never know what could happen!

Cathy said...

Amen, sister! The writing is what matters. That and the community created by sharing our words.

Put it away for the moment, but do try again.

flutter said...

Fabulous work!!

and your NASCAR description was hysterical

alice c said...

Don't be discouraged - a colleague at work is a published author and when you ask him how he got his break it is a long story. It goes something like this - send off script, get reject letter, send off script, get reject letter...repeat ten times...send off script - by sheer luck end up on desk of person starting new job, get published, win prize.

You are quite right that it is not all gold pavements - it is hard work and finding the right publisher for you. Even being published is not pain free. But stick with it because you never know when you will get a lucky break.

Beth said...

You've got to keep dreaming the dream!

Valarie said...

You are so right! What matters is that the writing is yours. Write it and enjoy it. You do a great job with your writing and I enjoy it very much. :)

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

I'm so sorry you had a bad experience with a "faux" publisher. Hang in there! You are a good writer.

Grim Reality Girl said...


I'm sorry for your bad experience but must chime in with... HEY! You ARE a REAL writer!

Write for the joy of writing. Screw the competitive exclusioners. There is more than enough room on the shelf for your amazing book! YOU WILL GET THERE if that is your goal. You are a real writer. A really good writer who we enjoy and who deserves to be published.

Note -- Book signings seem to suck for authors... when fantasizing focus on the CHECK :-)

Best of luck -- don't let it knock you down. You are wonderful and you inspire me.

your cousin said...

I am so SO proud of you... and love you very much.

I can't wait to see you on Saturday.

Kimmylyn said...

Don't let one bad publisher scam get you down.. I have only been reading you for a short time, but I love your posts.. and to have a 37,000 word anything is impressive.. :)

Keep pursuing your dreams.. :)

Kimmylyn said...

Don't let one bad publisher scam get you down.. I have only been reading you for a short time, but I love your posts.. and to have a 37,000 word anything is impressive.. :)

Keep pursuing your dreams.. :)

Kyla said...

What a bummer! I'm glad you guys checked it out, though.

April said...

WOw, I think that's why I don't even bother trying to send out my work. Bummer. I hope the next time it works out better for you!

Becky said...

that is so awesome carrie! i'm so excited for you whether it happens or not! keep us posted!

Janet said...

That is so disappointing. I hope it does pan out for you, sooner than later.

Indy said...

Good for you for sending it in. That takes some guts. Just b/c this agency wasn't what you'd had hoped doesn't mean the next one won't be wild about your manuscript. Keep dreaming and send it into another!

Daily Mish Mash said...

Definitely keep at it! I just stumbled across your blog and immediately added it to my favorites. You are a terrific writer and I can't wait to read your book.

Wendy said...

The published writers I've talked to all say the same thing: just persevere.

The best writers may never get published, but the writers who persevere have a really good chance (I hope!)!

And finding the "right fit" of publisher is key. I'm still looking... :)

Our Crooked Tree said...

I could have written this post myself; the part about writing and daydreaming and shopping☺

It is obvious you have something; no matter what publisher it is. If you want to contact me I would be honored to look over it (never give up the dream).