Monday, August 3, 2009
By Libby Malin
When I first started writing novels, I used to look at published authors with a combination of awe and envy. A member of various RWA email loops, I hung on the words of published authors who doled out advice, offering cautions as well as encouragement.
The one discussion that turned my admiring smiles to disapproving frowns was when published authors complained about how being published wasn't Nirvana, that published authors faced a whole new set of problems once their manuscripts were accepted and put into print.
Oh really? To the unpublished writer dealing with rejection and little reward, any problems associated with being published were ones I wanted to embrace! Give me those problems! Fellow writers felt the same way.
Eventually, I did make it into the published authors club. And lo and behold, I realized firsthand that yes, published authors face challenges, too, that getting published didn't mean the journey was over or even smooth ever after. I ended up dealing with virtually every problem I'd heard published authors complain about -- a mismatch with an agent, a change in editors, a dropped line, and a heartbreaking negotiation that sent me scurrying to the Authors Guild legal services asking for advice. (None of these incidents involved Sourcebooks, by the way!)
Fast forward years later. I'm sitting eating breakfast at the Marriott in DC during the RWA conference weekend. A woman sits at the table next to me. It's early and we're among only a handful of folks in the restaurant, so we strike up a conversation. She's unpublished, getting lots of rejection letters, but she's still trying, still hopeful. She asks about me and I tell her I am published in YA and women's fiction, that I'd come to DC primarily to meet with my agent and editor....and I offer her encouragement, urging her to contact me because I'd be happy to tell her what I know, limited though it might be, about the business.
When I left the restaurant, I realized that years ago I was that woman. And I would have viewed the published author sitting next to me as being blessed with success, being in precisely the spot I yearned to occupy--meeting with her agent to discuss future direction, seeing her editor and fellow authors. What bliss!
And you know what? It is bliss. In spite of all the problems, the headaches, the heartbreaks, the petty annoyances and big challenges, I'm danged lucky to be doing something I love. I might not be a bestselling author (yet!), but I'm paid to write, and my writing reaches thousands of people. That's a great feeling.
My brush with my "former self" made me realize how important it is to stop and count blessings from time to time. I know the road ahead will still have speed bumps and outright obstacles, but at least I'm on the road and not sitting on the sidelines.
Being a part of a supportive writing community helps a lot -- not just to get through the rough patches, but to celebrate with joy the successes of every author.
I hope that unpublished author does contact me for help. I'd be happy to share what I know (and zip my mouth if complaints bubble to the surface!) and wish her the best, just as many published authors did for me when I first put my toe on the writing path.