A Day in the Life: almost an author.
March 19, 2011 § 12 Comments
I’m speaking at the Tallahassee Writer’s Association conference this weekend, addressing aspiring authors. Most of them work day jobs and steal writing time from sleep, family, and any place else they can pinch a few minutes, an imperfect compromise I know well. For years I did it too.
My break came when my agent, Jack, pitched my book “Crossing Jordan” to Peachtree Publishers in Atlanta. Below is a journal entry written a few days before the acquisitions meeting at which the decision to buy the book or reject it would be made. A rejection would have been a nearer-than-usual miss, but still a miss. My mother, who was also a writer, would have called it a “good rejection.”
I would have cried, and then dusted myself off and continued to write before dawn, submit, collect rejections, and report, day after day, to a metal desk In the Technical Services Department of FSU’s library system where I had friends and had recently received a small promotion.
Not a bad life, but not the one I yearned for.
January 1, 1999
Closer, ever closer.
I got a call from Jack telling me that next Thursday “Crossing Jordan” will go before the Acquisitions board of Peachtree Publishers for a vote on whether or not to buy it.
Now the dichotomy of my life is even more sharply drawn. I wake up in the morning and imagine what I would do with the day if I were a full-time writer.
And then I go to work.
On the job I’ve been getting lots of “congratulations” on my promotion. I don’t deny that it’s a good thing. The me that works in Tech Services is really pleased.
But the me who writes, follows the thread of a day that goes in an entirely different direction…
The day of the acquisitions meeting arrived. I waited all day for news, hovering near the phone. Jack called several times to say that no news is good news, but even he was beginning to sound doubtful.
It was well after supper when he called for the last time. Jack has a wonderful good-news voice and as soon as he said, “This is Jack” I knew the committee had said yes.
When they said yes again a year later, to “Anna Casey’s Place in the World” I quit my day job and I became a full time writer.
The writing life is different than I’d imagined: harder but better; precarious, yet somehow sustainable.
If you are where I was before Jack’s good-news call, remember, NO is the default setting for publishers.
But sometimes, despite themselves, they say yes.
If you cheat yourself out of sleep to write, if you are brimming with stories, and get so distracted you sometimes arrive at work and realize you’ve put your shirt on inside out, hang in there. It can happen at any time, the “good rejection” can be replaced by YES.
After YES, the writer’s life you’ve frantically scribbled in the margins will be given the whole blank page.