I cheer every time I hear a never-pubbed author has received The Call. Yessss, her book’s gonna get published! Woo hoo! I’m happy for her because I know how elated I would be in her shoes. And I’m happy for me because, hey, non-pubbed authors are still getting published—and maybe I’ll be next! Yoo hoo, Prince Charming, over here! I’m sure my foot will fit that glass slipper!
While I lacquer my toenails in anticipation, I sigh over the high romance of success stories, especially those whose prince took the long route from the palace. You know, the stories about the author whose book got turned down umpteen times while she waited umpteen years (maybe even decades) for an editor to pick it up.
My latest fav is Ann Tatlock’s story. When I read she was going to teach at the annual Midwest Writers Conference in Muncie, I checked out her website and discovered she’d waited eleven years to slip her toes into those coveted slippers. Eleven years! Now that was encouraging since I’m not quite halfway there. I interviewed her at the conference and, well, her story knocked the socks off my ten little painted piggies!
First thing I asked her was what she did to prepare herself for publication during those long eleven years. Get this answer: “I really did only two things, and that was read good books and write.”
Wha…? Okay, she was a journalist working for Discipleship magazine, so she wasn’t exactly starting from a blank slate. But c’mon, no classes or workshops on writing fiction and learning all those wrist-slapping do’s and don’ts?
Nope. “I learned simply by reading good literature. I think you kind of instinctively take it in—you understand what the writers are doing.”
So, uh, what did she read? “A lot of the classics—British literature, Russian literature, classics going back to the nineteenth century. And I read a lot of contemporary literature, books I thought were good, books I wanted to emulate. Reading, reading, reading all the time.”
Well, then, how about the writing part? “I probably wrote seven full or partial novels before I wrote one where I thought, Okay, I think I’m ready.”
Seven till she was ready, huh? What kind of feedback did she get on them? Hold on, folks, can you believe none?
“All the earlier novels were a writing or learning experience. I think I was kind of teaching myself how to write, so I kind of muddled through it all on my own. But I finally got to the point where I felt like my eighth novel had the elements of what might be successful. It had a good plot, I liked the characters, and it was well written. So I decided to see if maybe somebody would pick it up.”
Someone did, and she had a book contract within six months. Since then, Ann has gone on to publish six more novels, the third of which won the Christy award. Her latest, The Returning, was published a year ago, and she is currently working on another contracted book.
I asked Ann what she would recommend to writers who are just getting started. “They probably shouldn’t do it the way I did it, because I can see how valuable it is to go to writers conferences, to take classes, to be in a critique group and get feedback from people. I was so solitary… just kind of teaching myself.”
There’s so much help available now, take advantage of it, she urged. But bottom line, “it’s God’s timing.”
I blinked at the last statement. How many times have I heard that? But you know what, there was no magic wand transforming pumpkins and cute little mice in Ann’s success story. Truth is, there IS no fairy godmother. But there is a Prince, and we can still be Cinderellas. We just need to read, read, read, and write, write, write, and keep scrubbing those pots until the real Prince opens the door… in His timing.
How about you? What’s your favorite success story?