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.

§ 12 Responses to A Day in the Life: almost an author.

  • Tgumster says:

    This full-time writer really needed to read this one on this day that dawns dubiously, doubtfully. Although surrounded by paws and licks of love, unconditionally and always, I yearned for a virtual handout and voila!

    “…writing life is different…harder…sustainable…not a bad life…imagine what I would do with the day.” Yes, Adrian, now I will imagine on this day so not like any other day yet just another day in my writing life.


    • The days come and go, but for those of us who write,time leaves a trail. A record of what we’ve felt and thought remains for anyone to read–even we ourselves are that reader.

      In the accumulation of pages we assert, I was really here, I paid attention.


  • You give us all hope! Thanks,


  • I feel the tension in this You Are There post!

    It’s fun to visit that time long back with you today but it I can feel the tension of those long hours before the YES.

    I love what you say about distraction that sends us out into the world, late, overdue from stumbling out of the cocoon of writing, with shirt inside out, slippers still on (guilty), buttons, flaps, zips, wrongly closed.

    Markus Zusak (The Book Thief) says we are close to being writers, unpublished or not, when the stories burn so much into us, they are the ones we keep writing even if we are told they could never be published.

    Brava for the gain made by young readers & us – sad for the Tech. Services folks of the FSU Library System, a wonderful world.


    • I think the true test of a person’s need to write is the answer to the question, if you knew you would never be published, would you still write?

      Writers often think that publication is what validates a book. Trends in publishing are whimsical. Good books never make it into print, but stories burn and need to be told. The act of writing is its own reward.

      Jan, it is great to get together with you and other passionate writers–and why did they schedule our talks today so they overlap! I’d love to hear you speak.


  • craig reeder says:

    they say you can only fail if you give up trying


  • There is something unusual about wearing a shirt inside out?


  • Sue Cronkite says:

    I need that. I have been so busy lately I haven’t had time to think, much less write.
    My renter moved. I had to completely redo the inside of the house, on an almost non-existent budget.
    This morning I am doing my income tax.
    I got a 20 hour a week job at the library, putting local people and their historical significance into the computer. I work Monday, 8 hrs; Wednesday, 6 hrs.; Friday, 6 hrs.
    I imagined I would be able to work on my book Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    Think again.
    Now I can’t keep up.
    Had three sales of lots to fall down — they couldn’t raise the money and I was selling the lots CHEAP.
    Oh, well.
    Back to the saltmines.
    Your posting helped me a great deal.
    If I could scramble up the money I’d get you to read my Louette’s Wake and tell me what the editor from Algonquin meant.
    Maybe later.


    • The bits and pieces of “Louette’s Wake” I have read make me think the Algonquin editor was nuts if her answer was anything but yes.

      Don’t worry about money, who has any anyway? Just send it to me. I’d love to read it.


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