Saturday, June 12, 2010

Isn’t That Nice for You?

Over the past year or two, as regular readers of this blog may have noticed, many members (current and former) of this critique group have hit the writer’s jackpot.

*Four members landed agents.
*One member’s picture book debuted this spring.
*One member sold a middle-grade novel, which hits bookstores in August.
*One member sold a picture book.
*Another member sold some magazine articles, adding to her already thick stack of clips.

This is, of course, in addition to children’s books and articles this group’s members have published in the past.

And then there’s me.

Over the past year or two, while most of my critique buddies racked up publishing successes, my own writing came to a complete standstill. To help make ends meet, I went back to work as a writing professor, and my own WIPs gathered dust on a shelf. Luckily, I was able to take the summer off. So I now have a few precious months to write, revise, submit, and critique before school starts again in the fall.

As happy as I am for my critique buddies, I can’t help but envy them. (You sold another book? Isn’t that nice for you?) It feels like everyone’s getting invited to the party but me. I’m still hopelessly pre-pubbed, and feeling like the writerly equivalent of a wallflower. (In the interest of stoking what’s left of my ego, may I add that I’ve published plenty of magazine articles for grown-ups? Of course, in the world of children’s books, it doesn’t count, but thanks for letting me tell you anyway.)

I envy my critique buddies’ newly minted status as agented writers and their lovely new publishing credits. I envy their conversations with agents and editors. I envy their royalty checks, however small. I envy their beautifully designed and illustrated books and magazine pieces. Finally, I envy the time they’re able to devote to their craft, which I used to have, too, but don’t anymore.

Still, I remain hopeful, that this will change one day. That I’ll get the call, too. Sell the book. Cross over to the other side, from pre-pubbed to pubbed. Hey, guys, I made it, wait up!

In the meantime, while I remain in pre-pubbed purgatory, I have a question for our followers (stealth readers and Paper Waiters can chime in, too, of course). From your bios, websites, and blogs, I see that many of you have seen your fair share of publishing successes too. (Isn’t that nice for you? Wink.) So, tell me, were you ever in pre-pubbed purgatory, too, celebrating everyone’s successes but your own? What kept you going?

And for those of you who, like me, haven’t sold your first book yet, one more question: When other people’s success stories are ringing in your ears, and you’re facing your latest rejection, what keeps you going?

(Photo credit: Rebecca Richardson)


  1. It never ends and will eat us up, if we allow it to. Even once you get agented....have you sold yet? Even once you sell...for how much? was it a pre empt? auction? no? just a regular old deal... Then, comes the second book. Did they buy your second? option it?


    So, my advice is to let it go and learn to let it go early because it can go on and on and, suddenly, we lose the joy of the journey.

    If there's no joy in the journey ... what's the point?

  2. Tess, is so right. It never ends. I sold a PB this year. My best friend sold two... in ONE week. It is hard not to feel jealousy no matter where you are in the process. I think it's great that you are totally in touch with it and able to acknowledge it openly. If you didn't feel any envy, you would not be normal!

  3. Tess puts it very well - no matter how successful you are, there will always be insecurity and envy if you compare yourself to someone else.

    Everyone's writing career is unique.

  4. And once you sell book one, then the pressure's really on to sell book two. I mean, who wants to be a one-book wonder! And now I want to stay published, and write better and better all the time.

    What kept me going pre-pub was belief in the book I was peddling. The other big thing was reading other books. Everything about them -- the story, the physical book -- kept me hungry.

  5. So, while I'd love to chime in with the other kind ladies and heeve ho my way towards sweet words of wisdom on patience and whatnot, I'm gonna have to say this: I F*%KING hate the fact that I am still UNAGENTED and UNPUBBED. I feel your pain, I feel your angst, and I constantly say "when will it be me?" So, in case you were feeling lonely, I'm here too. Hopefully someday soon, someone will see the talent and foresight and fall in love with my characters as much as I do. Otherwise, what in the hell am I doing? Sheesh.

    On a seperate note--if anyone here knows how I can get a good online critique group, please share b/c the great SCBWI peeps of my hood are meeting in person and as a mama of two precious babies under two (who tend to drive me completely bonkers and not let me get anything done until the wee hours of the night), it is quite difficult to go to evening meetings. So any suggestions would be SO VERY welcome, please!!!!! I primarily do middle grade, but also do PBs.

  6. JL - sigh and wow - I entertain my green monster all too often. And I don't think I can say it better than Tess has - there will always be someone better than you, with a bigger deal and the #1 spot on the bestseller list, so it's best not to compare or it will eat us up.

    What helps me is to put it in persepctive. Anyone I know who is pubbed or agented has worked hard to be in that spot. Reading the *Jealousy* chapter in Bird by Bird, and knowing that envy happens to talented, best-selling, well known writers as well helps too. Hit a pillow, go for a run, eat chocolate do whatever you need to do to let the emotions run their course (or use them in your work, always good!) and just get on with it.

    But - you can't forget that you've had to put your work aside for awhile - that happens to all of us too. You can't be agented or pubbed when your manuscript is collecting dust, it's as simple as that. Get back on the horse!!

  7. Tess: You put that beautifully!

    Corey: You sold a PB? Isn't that nice for you? Kidding. I already knew that from your blog. Congrats and thanks for your helpful comment.

    Gale: You make a good point, as usual.

    Marcia: You remind me of something Avi said at a conference. For him, writing gets harder with each subsequent book. One reason is because it becomes more and more difficult to say the same thing in a fresh, new way. Even for him, the pressure never ends.

    Ammie: Would you consider joining a group that meets in person? We're looking for a new member, and I bet you'd make a great cuss buddy!!! Thanks for your hilarious, hopeful, and helpful comment, and good luck!

  8. Oh, and Robin, thanks for your words of wisdom. I must reread Bird by Bird. What a great book.

  9. Ah, J.L.

    You know I have total faith in Fred (the MC of J.L.'s brilliant MG, the one just waiting to hop into the right agent's hands).

    That said, we can all get into the difference between jealousy and envy, or we can just admit we have our good days and our bad days.

    To me, the best day is when the writing is going well. So take advantage of the summer, and write away. That green-eyed monster will peek out every once in a while no matter what you do. So forget about him when you can.

    Just write.

  10. I know your pain as I'm in the same boat. BUT that said, I'm so glad my earlier novels didn't get picked up because my writing is so much stronger now. I just keep writing and concentrate on my love of it and not on what's happening to others around me. Hang in there! I'll try to do the same!

  11. J.A.: Any chance of you becoming an agent in the near future? Here's hoping we both have good writing days today :-)

    Christina: You have a great attitude. I think I'll try it. Let us know when you land your agent/first book sale, okay?

  12. JL - My green monster and I are very good friends. We meet regularly for coffee and pity-me-tea. Remember that all the success our critique group has had this year has come after YEARS of work. That's not to say that you have not, too, worked for years, but given the circumstances of the last two years, it's been hard for you. Get Fred off the shelf and back out into the world!

  13. Oh, how I feel your pain! I try to keep a 'what have I got to lose' attitude - you can't win if you don't play. And I regularly consider just giving up. But then that voice in my head says, 'come on, keep at it - you'll get there some day!' Hopefully it's not lying to me!

  14. Meg: I hope your pity-me-tea isn't Constant Comment!

    Anonymous: With all the thousands of books you've already published, I'm surprised to hear that you still feel this way. Kidding! It sounds like you have the right mental attitude to go the distance. Good luck, and please let us know when you make your first sale.