It’s been two years since I looked up from nursing my youngest, and realized that soon it would be time to figure out what I was going to do next. On the best of days, I can do about 80% of the stay-at-home parent thing—for the other 20%, everybody had better clear out of my way. We’ve managed fine by finessing our weekly schedule; I get just enough time away to maintain my sanity in this rewarding and challenging role of “mom.” But in four years, both my kids would be in elementary school. The time for me to find something else to do with myself was imminent. Dedicating my education and intelligence to ever more perfect stacks of laundry could not be my destiny.
So two years ago I made a decision. Instead of:
- figuring out what I wanted to do next,
- updating my training,
- getting a job, and
- learning to do a new job,
I would instead put all that time and energy into learning how to make money doing what I really love—writing.
There, I’ve said it. My naked ambition is on the table. Don’t worry, I’m not about to start asking you for money (although I don’t promise that I never will). I want to learn how to take the writing I do from the pages of my notebook to the pages in readers’ hands.
So there it is. After a lifetime of writing, I’ve finally owned up to what I am and what I want to be: a writer. A paid writer. The “paid” part is important. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no interest in the money apart from this: if my writing brings in an income—any income—it justifies my time away from making school lunches and monitoring the bandaid supply.
Decision made, done deal, right? You know the answer to that. But I will say this, the last two years I’ve spent dedicated to this new future I’ve chosen are starting to pay off. I haven’t signed with my dream agent, no book deals, nothing like that. But the firsts are starting to pile up, and that feels good:
- First conversation (followed by many more since) in which I feel like my Fictional Husband (FH) understands that I really am a writer, and what that means for us.
- First time attending the Book Passage Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (2012), now an annual event in my writing life.
- First time joining a writing group of strangers (Temescal Writers, my inspiration and my home).
- First solo writing retreat (look for a separate post, coming soon).
- First manuscript complete (closely followed by several more).
- First time submitting a manuscript to an agent.
- First time attending my regional meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and best of all
- MY FIRST REJECTION!
My response to this first rejection—a form email from an agency that I greatly admire and was certainly a long shot—might surprise you. Rather than feeling deflated or discouraged, what I felt was…initiated. I am now doing what I want to be doing: writing and working toward publication, with more or less success, depending on my expectations and time frame. I felt liberated. They don’t want it? I am free to find the person who does. I felt excited. Who will get the next shot at collaborating with me on the making of this book?
Being rejected means that I was considered. And that’s a huge accomplishment in my writing life to date. I can live with that, for now.
This article is part of the Writer’s Passage series, chronicling the journey of one writer into the rabbit hole of children’s book publishing.