Hills and Valleys
By E. P. Bellows
2006, late August, early, early morning… I groaned and rolled myself out of bed. My six-month-old son could be heard shifting in his crib through the baby monitor. He was finally starting to sleep through the night. I shuffled to his room wiping the sleep out of my eyes.
“Good morning, little man!”
He looked at me with his adorable toothless smile while clutching the ear of his tattered Mickey Mouse plush. I scooped him out of his crib and grabbed a book of classic fairytales we bought when he was a week old.
“Which story should we read this morning?” We snuggled on the couch with a ba-ba (bottle). “Well, it looks like we’ve read every story.” Just like every other morning, I thought about writing my own stories. I certainly had plenty of ideas; and have since childhood.
The little man took an extra-long nap that day and I parked myself in front of my computer screen. I just started typing; the story was spilling out through my fingers. It was therapeutic – like I was releasing my bottled-up imagination.
I finished the rough version of Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit and wanted nothing more than to keep writing. So, I continued on to part two. I also considered submitting to publishers with a “why not” attitude.
I knew nothing of the publishing world. After submitting to a handful of publishers and agents, I received a handful of rejections (mostly polite and generic). Hmm, I suppose I won’t be rubbing elbows with J.K. Rowling after all… oh well. Lesson number one for a newbie writer: humility. After that experience I thought it best to continue writing simply because I really enjoy it.
I joined Authonomy, a sort of online community for writers which I found to be very supportive. I reluctantly put bits of The Realm of Azra’s Pith (Alexander Drake’s title at the time) up to be critiqued. Lesson number two for a newbie writer: you need a thick skin – when I say thick, I mean tough, and leathery – no sissies allowed!
Trudging through comments like “you couldn’t write a letter to your cat”, and “your title sucks”; I received some very helpful feedback and learned a lot about my writing. The letter to your cat statement is an exaggeration. I don’t think anyone would be that cruel; but I did change the title if that tells you anything.
2007, mid June, late afternoon… I sat in my squeaky desk chair checking my email. Let’s see, “become a millionaire working from home” – spam, “meet singles in your area” – spam, “The Realm of Azra’s Pith Submission” … huh? I clicked on it expecting a late rejection letter – but it wasn’t. Someone actually wanted to publish my book!
After running around the house like a headless chicken I submitted my contract to Rain Publishing. The release date was set for October of 2008… a very long year and a half away. Lesson number three for a newbie writer: patience – because the process take’s f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
For a few months I skipped around basking in the glow of my newfound title: Published Author, giving myself mental high-fives … Yes! I’m a published author… yes!
2008, late March, mid-morning… I was spinning around in the same squeaky chair checking my email. The fist subject line read “To all authors – very important please read”. As I read everything went a bit fuzzy. I did manage to finish half the email before my stomach started doing back flips. “Rain Publishing is closing…,” I suppose I needed a dose of lesson number one (humility). It certainly was humbling every time someone asked how my book was doing – the book? It’s doing… okay, I guess.
After a month of wallowing around in self-pity, I climbed back on the old saddle and pulled my files up. I decided to start at square one with Alexander Drake, and pretty much rewrote the entire manuscript. I was happy with the updated version; so out it went. Yet again, I submitted to a handful of publishers and agents. You’d think I would have learned my lesson the first time.
With the rejections came some slightly more positive feedback from a polite and extremely patient submissions editor at Wild Child Publishing. Lesson number four for a newbie writer: proofread and proofread again. If you think your work is perfect… have someone who knows what they are doing proofread it for you.
I took a month, bought some editing software and allowed the authonomites (members of Authonomy) to rip it to shreds. Then, I resubmitted it.
2009, early October, early evening… YES!!! A publishing contract! This time I took a pass on the basking, and the self-proclaimed title. Of course, I had to revert back to lesson number three (patience)… Alexander Drake did not get released until June of 2011.
So, so many years (and few books) later, mid-July, 6 years or so after my second publisher folded. I think I’m on lesson umpteen and a half of a not so newbie writer… write for the enjoyment of it and don’t sweat the rest. The happiness lies in the journey through those hills and valleys.