(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 eHarlequin.com 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.