Writing Means Failing A Lot

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I am really starting to understand why the word “persistence” comes up so often when writers talk about what it takes to be successful. While decluttering my writing space and organizing files on my hard drive, I faced the eye-opening reality that I’ve been at this writing thing for ten years, (at least in the quasi-professional sense). Ten years. And I don’t have a lot to show for it other than a few teeny tiny publishing credits.

My journals and files say otherwise. I’ve written two novels, more poems than I can count (there are about 1,000 haikus alone), and more than 1,000 blog posts (this one blows my mind the most!). Writing is the easy part. Finding an audience is a little tougher. Getting published feels almost impossible.

My rejection folder is enormous. I have an interesting relationship with this stack of rejection. On one hand, it’s hard not to take it personally. It is after all one agent after another telling me they aren’t interested in what I poured my heart into. On the other, it’s nothing personal. We all have opinions about what we like to read. My only saving grace is that I’ve never had an literary agent tell me my writing sucks and that I should just give up. I know writers get this sometimes and so far I’ve been lucky. It’s just frustrating on so many levels that I can’t seem to break through the barriers.

The soul crushing truth is writing means failing a lot. Not only in the ridiculous number of failed drafts, but in the process as a whole.

Yet, I persist. I’m too stubborn to let the failure win.

I took a little break from the query process to regroup after the last batch of rejections, (30 rejections hit pretty hard). Then, last month I took a writing workshop on query letters and the synopsis. While much of the information wasn’t anything new to me, I still walked away with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s amazing what being among writers in the same situation can do!

This week I sent off a brand new volley of query packages. I must be a glutton for punishment. Most writers seem to be, so I’m in good company. As a matter of fact, I already got my first rejection from this batch. It was pretty swift and painful, but not unexpected.

I’m bracing myself for more to come, but I keep reminding myself I only need one yes. All the no’s don’t matter, it’s the yes I’m after.

Persistence is key.

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c.b.w. 2017

 

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Plugging Along

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Summer’s reprieve from the day job leaves me with a lot of time to relax (which I desperately need no matter how much I try to deny it) and dig into the To Do List I created instead of New Year’s Resolutions. As with all lists, some items are easier than others!

Item #1 Declutter

It’s a work in progress, but I have made some headway. Two out of three closets at home are cleared and so is most of the junk I was hoarding in my classroom. I’m pretty sure my colleagues thought I was losing my mind – I tossed out an entire three-drawer file cabinet of handouts and folders, (all for classes I no longer teach). Then, I got rid of a ton of stuff from my supply cabinets, bookshelves, and office storage area.

However, what I’m most proud of is thinning out my Barbie collection. I’ve been collecting for most of my life, which lead to amassing more than 120 dolls and accessories. To say I’m attached to them is an understatement. Yet, I realized that my preferences as a collector have changed, so I sold or gave away 24 dolls and there are more I’m looking to clear out. It was surprisingly easy to do once I made the choice to let them go.

I still haven’t touched the DVD or CD shelf. Yikes – they are pretty daunting.

My writing area is better, but not organized. Everything is in a box until I decide what to do with all the shelving units in the guest room.

Item #2: Publish Something

I’ve made some good headway on this front, too. The summer actually started with a piece of fan mail from an avid reader of my poetry blog, Haiku Tree. She wanted to know if I had any books out and that gave me quite the boost to work on my chapbook! So far, I have 75 haikus selected from my journals. The goal is to get to 100, so I’m getting close. I’m writing all new pieces for the last 25.

Last month, I attended a query package workshop at Phoenix Comicon. It ended up being the kick in the pants I needed. I rewrote my query letter, cranked out a synopsis, and compiled a new list of agents. This week, I started putting together query packages with all my new materials for each agent on my list. While the sting of rejection is imminent, I’m jumping in head first. Let’s do this!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

I’m right on track according to Goodreads! At the moment, I am reading Book #17.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

Done. I’m still alive. I finished the final component last month, but I won’t know until November or December if I scored high enough to be certified. Fingers crossed!

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

Working on it. Being away from the day job is helping, but finding my mojo after such a stressful year has been challenging. I’m using some of my summer time to rediscover all the things I gave up during the school year.

One thing is certain, when the school year starts up again, I am determined to protect myself and my time.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

This is delayed. The furbaby needs a lot of special care. If that means staying home, then I’m staying home for the time being. Meanwhile, I will be planning a future adventure! I finally sent my application to renew my passport.

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How are your goals To Do List items going?

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c.b.w. 2017

Autograph Ninja: Book Edition

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It’s no secret that I love a good autograph (see The Autograph Ninja and The Autograph Ninja Strikes Again). I’ve collected signatures from actors, musicians, and authors over the years and apparently my friends have noticed. Most of the recent autographs I’ve acquired have been gifts and that makes them all the more special to me.

Last Christmas, a co-worker was my Secret Santa. She got me hooked on Outlander by giving me the first book in the series a few months before. I loved it and couldn’t wait to read the next book. I almost died when I opened my Christmas gift – it was a signed copy of Dragonfly in Amber. The funny thing is, I was her Secret Santa, too. I got her an Outlander coloring book!

 

One of the most sentimental autographs I’ve ever received came from a dear friend that passed away a few years ago. We shared a love of the Maisie Dobbs series and often read the newest release together. The last Christmas gift he gave me was signed copy of a title I was missing in my collection of the series, Pardonable Lies, (I borrowed it from him originally). It remains one of my most precious memories of him.

The same friend also gave me a signed copy of Hide Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver. He was a huge fan of Kingsolver and was pretty determined to convince me to read everything she’s ever written (I’m working on it!). He gave it to me shortly before he passed away. I like to think he knew I’d take care of it for him. He was right. I will.

Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to come across autographs on my own. I love how Barnes & Noble started offering signed editions of books around the holidays. I treated myself to a signed copy of Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I love her series, The Lunar Chronicles, so it was so exciting to snag a signed copy of her most recent novel.

The last and most recent autographs were gained the old fashioned way – I went to Phoenix Comicon and waited in line! The book is Q-Squared by Peter David. I bought it 23 years ago (with my first ever paycheck!) and always hoped I’d get Peter David to sign it as he is one of my favorite sci-fi writers. It turns out he was scheduled to be at Phoenix Comicon, along with the actor who plays Q on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I decided to have my book signed by both.

I struck gold with John de Lancie (Q). He turned out to be a pretty cool guy with a serious love of history. Once he found out I was a history teacher, we had a nice chat about books to read and the general scope of historical events.

Unfortunately, Peter David had to leave Comicon early due to a family emergency, but he did leave behind index cards with his autograph for fans to pick up. It’s too bad the autograph isn’t directly on my book, but I’ll take it nonetheless – it’s still his autograph!

While it’s always more fun to get autographs by meeting an author, it’s incredibly special to receive them as gifts as well. In many ways, a gifted autograph takes on all the more meaning as it came from someone who cared enough to give it to me.

 

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c.b.w. 2017

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