Shannon Stacey

The Big Three-Five

(There’s contest news at the end of this post, if you don’t fall asleep before you get there)

So it’s my birthday today. After checking and doublechecking my math, it seems I am, in fact, thirty-five now. It’s been a little black raincloud hanging over me for the last couple of weeks, so I’m glad it’s over with. I had no problem turning thirty—I was so done with my twenties—but thirty-five is kicking my ass. I am not, however, getting any sympathy on the home front as the husband turns fifty-two in November.

Reaching the midpoint of my family medical history-based estimated lifespan (and that’s being optimistic) has turned me a little introspective, and I’ve been pondering this writing thing—trying to remember milestones in the context of larger events. Like when I first realized actual people wrote the books I was reading. I know we hadn’t left for England and I had my sixth birthday right before we left, so probably five. Or when, after years of writing for myself, I started my first “real” romance with a publisher in mind. I know my stepfather had retired from the AF and we’d left Plattsburgh, but I was still a virgin (I remember this because it made the love scene rather difficult to write and resulted in a closed door). So I was probably fifteen.

My first “real” submission is a little harder to place. I think the tall kid was about two, so that would have been about ’97, making me twenty-five. (That stuff’s all packed away in hard copy somewhere down in the basement. I’m not introspective enough to go looking.) Armed with several years worth of Writer’s Digest Magazines, my copy of How to Write a Romance and Get it Published by Kathryn Falk and actual snail-mail requested tip sheets, I sent a (typewriter-written) partial to Leslie Wainger at Silhouette Yours Truly. The rejection, at the time, was devastating. In retrospect, that letter is very special to me. I knew none of the writing “rules”, jargon—POV, EC, IC, ETC—and the story had zero conflict. From page one the hero and heroine could have lived happily ever after, bantering over quirky coffee mugs. I remember being devastated reading Miss Wainger’s comments about conflict and a few other things. Now, knowing what I know about rejection letters, I think about that story and ponder the fact a senior editor took the time to write a personalized, educational and encouraging letter in response. Not that I think it was close to publishable, because it wasn’t, but because maybe there was something in the voice that made her take a few minutes to write that letter.

Anyway….sometime in 2001, I think—I don’t remember when—I found and my whole life changed. Dramatic much? Maybe. But it’s true. Not only did I learn so much about writing I’m surprised my head didn’t explode, but I found people like me—normal, non-glamorous moms who dared to dream big. I also met some of my very best friends there. On December 31st, 2001, I submitted a query letter to Silhouette Romance. Then the requested partial. Then the requested full. And though the acquiring editor passed, her assistant editor’s reaction to the story was so incredible it seriously took the sting out of the rejection.

So if somebody were to ask me how long I’ve been writing…I don’t know. Since I first realized writing was an option and painstakingly formed letters into little stories? Thirty years. Since I started a manuscript with the intent of sending it to a publisher? Twenty years. Or since the submission I sent out just to DO it, like ripping off a Band-aid—ten years. Or since—armed with not only the desire, but the necessary tools—I sent out my first professionally viable manuscript? Just shy of six years.

Twice Upon A Roadtrip sold to EC on January 31st, 2005.

I’ve met some of my goals. From where I’m sitting I can tilt my head and read my name on the spines of print books. I have some left to achieve (Yeah, I’d like a RITA) and some new ones (I WILL have a book in Walmart before I’m forty if it KILLS me).

But for right now—today—I’m a pretty happy camper.

Edited to Add:

Speaking of friends, Jaci’s having a birthday contest for me, and she’s giving away a copy of Going the Distance. That book’s very special to me, not only because it contains my first sold story—Twice Upon A Roadtrip—but it also features Jaci Burton and Ann Wesley Hardin. They’re two of those friends I mentioned, going back to the eHQ trenches. Seeing our names together on that cover still gives me a thrill.

So go check out Jaci’s contest!

15 comments to “The Big Three-Five”

  1. Charlene
      · September 6th, 2007 at 10:30 am · Link

    I don’t have a book in Walmart. Sob. Happy birthday, Shan! And congrats on all your achievements. It’s pretty impressive so far, and you have so much ahead of you. Honestly, how many people dream of having a book in print? And you’ve done it, more than once. It’s an incredible thing.

  2. Jaci Burton
      · September 6th, 2007 at 10:42 am · Link

    Happy Birthday Shan! :hug:

    Great day for reflectionl And you’re never too old and it’s never too late. Always push yourself to the next level. You can do it if you want it bad enough. And if you have annoying friends who bug you until you do. :coffee:

    Love you Shan. :heart:

  3. Ann
      · September 6th, 2007 at 12:02 pm · Link

    Happy Birthday! :cheer:

  4. Ashleigh Raine Jen
      · September 6th, 2007 at 12:08 pm · Link

    Happy birthday, Shannon! I loved reading your writing history. :) You have a lot to be proud about. Enjoy your day. :boogie:

  5. Karen Templeton
      · September 6th, 2007 at 2:58 pm · Link

    Thirty-five? Heh. I’m with your hubby on this one. Literally, since he and I are in the same decade. :crazy: (And isn’t it weird that your Big Kid and my #5 are both in the seventh grade??? :wtf:)

    But happy, happy, anyway! :heart::heart::heart:

  6. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · September 6th, 2007 at 3:29 pm · Link

    Happy Birthday, Shannon!!!! :cheer:

    Whenever I make reference to something you’ve said here, I call you “my friend Shannon,” though I know we’re only, really, acquaintances. But I remember “meeting” you in the eHarlequin days, and the moment when I discovered you had an important role to play in my cyberlife.

    You’re a rare person, you know. Not only are you “like me” in the writing sense…

    …you’re from New England…

    …and you’re a PATRIOTS fan! :rofl:

    Since then I’ve watched your journey and learned so much from you. I’ll be cheering loudest (yes, SIR, I will!) when you achieve your H/S dream.

  7. Michelle
      · September 6th, 2007 at 3:34 pm · Link

    Happy Birthday, my friend :hug: – it sounds to me like you’ve achieved a whole heck of a lot!

  8. Bev Stephans
      · September 6th, 2007 at 6:22 pm · Link

    Happy Birthday Shannon. I don’t care if you never get a book in Walmart. I don’t shop there anyway! Just keep writing your great books and I (and countless others) will keep reading them. HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!


  9. vanessa jaye
      · September 6th, 2007 at 7:29 pm · Link

    Happy Birthday, Shan!!

  10. Jenn L
      · September 6th, 2007 at 8:30 pm · Link

    Happy Birthday Shannon. I turned thrity-five this year as well, so I feel your pain.

    I hope that all you wishes came true and that you have many more great years writing.

    I know that one day I will see your books on the local Wal-Mart shelves. When that day comes we can celebrate with you.

    Oh and on Jaci’s blog I asked this question but I’ll post it here as well… How’s Gallagher? Is he still stuck in a plot hole? Sheesh it’s been awhile since I’ve been in blogland.

  11. m&markyp
      · September 6th, 2007 at 9:47 pm · Link

    Yeah, Happy Birthday to my awesome big sister. Thank you for taking such good care of me for all those years. I love you so much ~Meesh

  12. Shannon
      · September 6th, 2007 at 10:15 pm · Link

    Y’all made me sniffle on my birthday! Natalie, you actually made a few tears, too. :hug: You guys are all so awesome.

    Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes!

    And look, it’s my sister! :boogie: She must have stolen the keyboard away from her husband. :rofl:

    Oh, and Gallagher’s almost out of the plothole now. I kinda have to leave him hanging there by his fingernails until Adam’s squared away.

    Men. Sheesh.

  13. kate r
      · September 7th, 2007 at 8:31 am · Link

    happy birthday to you,
    you live in a zooooo

  14. Jewell
      · September 7th, 2007 at 2:57 pm · Link

    Happy belated birthday, Shan

    Ah, the Eharl days. You know, I was actually discussing Eharl with someone yesterday. How I feel so blessed I stumbled on to it when I first started writing.

    How it not only taught me about grammar, conflict, hooks, queries, syns, yada yada yada…but also appropriate behaviour on the internet.

    Every chance I get, I send new writers to Eharl, no matter the genre. There is so much to learn there.

  15. Jean
      · September 7th, 2007 at 10:42 pm · Link

    My hubby’s 23 years older, and he’s a horrible tease. I was worried about 45. I’ve managed to survive, but sometimes it’s been rough. The good news? Hubby’s health improved during his fifties, so I’m hoping I can make the same happen for me.

    I find it’s really gauge what could be coming up health-wise. For so many years, he’d turn on lights telling me I needed more light. Now I understand what he meant!

    Happy (belated) Birthday.

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