Milestones

I received this e-mail yesterday from a copy editor at a local Raleigh newspaper:
“I am working on a story for The News & Observer and am looking to interview folks in the community. I found your name, quite serendipitously, associated with a writer’s group. … This is for a story in our Q section. … “

This was the second time in the last month that I’ve been contacted to do an interview about my writing. I will be interviewed for the Raleigh Television Network’s “The Artist’s Craft” segment in November.

Does anyone really want to hear about my writing? I feel about these interviews the same way I felt the first time a high school student asked me to mentor her writing project. I wonder if I have enough experience as a writer to be effective. I have not yet finished the final draft of my first young adult novel and am far from having a successful writing career. I have had some success with educational pieces, but so far my fiction has not taken off. If I was looking for someone to interview about their writing, I would not choose me.

And then I happened upon JA Konrath’s blog. He said:
“Throughout the course of a career, a writer reaches many milestones. These milestones have a certain order, more or less, and each time one is reached is a cause for celebration.”

I realized that I have reached several of those writing milestones, I didn’t realize how many, and am ecstatically happy for accomplishing them. They include:

Finishing the first draft of my first novel. The end. Two little words that gave me such a feeling of acomplishment. My first novel was a rather abysmal story of a woman with multiple personalities titled Within. The writing was awful. I forced friends and family to read it. I’m so sorry for that. I made the rookie mistake of writing an autobiograghical piece and then stuck in the multiple personality to make it fiction. It didn’t work. Thank goodness I’ve moved on.

Sending out my first query letter. Unfortunately it was for Within, so I also received my first rejection form letter. Both gave me a sense of pride. I had tried.

Receiving my first acceptance e-mail from the editor of an educational magazine. This was for Attention Defecit Hyperactive Disorder… A Teacher’s Perspective. The editor said it was too long. I think the original version was over 3,000 words. I trimmed it down to half and sent it back to the editor. (Thank you for the advice Harry). He liked it and printed the cut version. Cutting that article was my first lesson in becoming successful as a writer. I hating sacrificing part of my baby.

Seeing my first nonfiction piece in print. Again, this was the ADHD article. Actually seeing my work in print. How awesome! (Even after the piece came out in Education Today magazine, I still had parents of my students bringing me articles and Web sites to help me “learn” about ADHD. But that is another post).

Selling my first short story to an E-zine. The first time I was actually paid for my fiction, and saw my name in print, I literally jumped for joy. Peculiar Advice, about the difference one teacher made and why, is my first published story. This is not my best story, and frankly, I was shocked it published. But it came from my heart.

Holding the first print magazine containing a piece of my fiction in my hands. This was my most exciting moment. Seeing my fiction on the printed page for the first time will always be my greatest thrill. This was To Live Again, my favorite and my first. Although Peculiar Advice was published first, To Live Again was written first. I’ll admit it is not my best, but I wrote and rewrote this heartfelt story of a woman who learns to take charge of her life through the love of her dog.

The first Web page I published and the first blog entry I posted. Both developing my Web site and blogging have helped me practice writing and build confidence to put my work out there.

So, I can see that my sacrifices and plain old hard work have paid off with some success. Hopefully, there are other milestones ahead like these:

Finishing my first young adult novel. The end. I can’t wait to write those two little words. I’ve sent the last three chapters to my writing group to critique. I’m darn close.

Getting an agent. It’s so hard to find an agent, especially a good one. I’m ready for the challenge of finding one. I’m realistic and willing to put forth the effort to find the right one.

Landing my first book deal. This is perhaps the biggest milestone of all. I look forward to it with all my heart. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, open a bottle of your favorite wine, or crack a beer, and toast the accomplishments of writers — and their families — only they truly understand obsession with the written word.

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