For those of you following my writing journey in parts, thanks so much for your support. If you need to catch up, part I is here, and part II is here. And here's part III:
January 2011. We just had our 4th child and the desire to write came back with a vengeance. I knew I had to set goals—some serious goals if I wanted to finish my first book. So it was actually Jason Matthews, my first writing mentor who dared me to finish the whole book by March 17th that year.
I was on fire.
Every moment I could, I was in the document, typing away, pushing myself to get this story out. Our newborn had colic, so he CRIED for hours each night. But it actually worked in my favor, because that’s when I wrote. From Jan-March that year, 6 days a week, I woke up at 3:00 am and wrote with the baby until the kids got up. (Hubby took the baby from 10-3 for me so I could sleep). There were SO many moments when I just wanted to cry from lack of sleep, from the stress of a hard newborn, and the other kids. But the desire to write kept me in check. I knew that if I didn’t force myself to get this story out I’d never succeed.
But I did it. It was actually 2 days before my deadline that I typed “The End” on my first manuscript. It was time to query. (I’m skipping the part where I beta’d/perfected the MS)
--Now to interrupt for a little bit where my head was at--
I, like some of you (?) thought I had the best/most creative masterpiece that the publishing world had ever seen. Two of my besties had Big 6 deals on their first novels. Why couldn’t I? I honestly expected agents to throw themselves at me. I had no doubt I could succeed, no doubt I had something special to offer. And now I realize I’m coming off totally cocky—which is not the case—I just really believed in myself. (Oh how naïve I was) The truth is, growing up, anything I put my heart to, I succeeded at. Just a-matter-of-fact thing. In my mind, there was no reason not to succeed.
And when I started querying, the requests started pouring in. But so did the rejections. With my first project, I received 28 full requests, which ALL ended in a rejection. Now, I’m not sure how to convey how crushing each rejection was. If you’ve felt it even once, you understand. Each time I sent the manuscript off, I was sure that particular agent was going to feel the magic and want me.
Now, I’m a spiritual person. And I rely a lot on gut feeling. And there was ONE particular agent who I just knew I was supposed to work with. It was one of those “hit by lightning” moments, where peace filled my whole frame and I just… knew. So when I snail mailed off my manuscript to Karen, I ceased to have the anxiety that came with querying. I knew she was going to say yes. To be cliché, every fiber of my being screamed that we were supposed to work together.
A week later my rejection came. It came through the mail, and the handwritten note was the kindest rejection I ever received. She also gave me $20 to pay for mailing costs! Honestly, what agent does that?
I was heartbroken. And it was this rejection that BROKE me. It sent me spiraling into a place I never want to be again. You have to understand, I grew up not knowing what rejection was. Failure wasn’t programmed into my brain. I didn’t know how to handle it. I began to doubt everything about my journey—my gut had never been wrong before. I knew she was the one! So how could my gut feeling fail me?
So I put down the pencil, put away the keyboard, and tried to ignore everything. I could just be a mom, right? I didn’t need to be a writer. Apparently it wasn’t for me. Staying in the writing world was too hard, so I didn’t want any part of it. (And I realize this doesn’t put me in a very good light, but I want to be wholly honest with how I felt.) But I had already signed up to go to the LA SCBWI conference with my dear friend, Leigh, so I couldn’t back out. Not with the trip all planned.
So I went.
And I’m sooooo grateful I did. Long story short (Trust me, this is hard to condense), it was right after a keynote speaker, when the thousand or so people stood to go to their next class, that the crowd parted.
And in walks Karen.
It was one of those slow motion movie moments. It was a miracle I spotted her in the crowd. And she was walking right toward me. I knew without a doubt I had to go speak with her. So I marched right up to her, told her who I was, thanked her profusely for the kind reimbursement, and her kind words on my rejection. And something happened during our conversation. Speaking with her brought the spark back. A piece of the hole in my heart healed. And I wanted to try writing again.
And it KILLS me to stop here! Because this is where the story really takes off! Gah. It's definitely not over yet.