Like a Bolt from the Blue

The great thing about a lightning storm is you don’t have to be all that lucky to see it.

Contrary to the common wisdom about lightning, it strikes lots of times, over and over. I set my camera up on a tripod on our patio last night and just kept pressing the button until I caught the lightning. It didn’t take long. A little persistence. A lot of faith. And being willing to enjoy the night and watch the show while you wait for the perfect opportunity.

A lot like writing, yes.

Allison asked me if I was going to get my “First Sale” ribbon for my nametag at National. She was surprised that I said no. Technically, I could have, for Petals & Thorns, my Loose Id novella. Because, oddly enough, my erotic take on Beauty and the Beast qualifies as a first sale in the genre to RWA. If I make enough money on it, which it looks from early sales like I might, I can qualify to be part of the Published Author Network, or PAN. I’ll probably take that.

But first sale? No way.

I remember my first sale and what it meant to me. I sold an essay, Bullets, to Wyoming Magazine in 1997. They paid me and everything. Then I had a few pieces in literary magazines that didn’t pay, but made me feel snazzy. Redbook published one essay in 2000, which paid really well and made me feel snazzy. Everyone said I’d “arrived” at that point, which really wasn’t the case at all, but was nice to hear.

I remember when the acquisitions editor at University of New Mexico Press asked if she was in time to publish my first book. And when she told me the review board approved the essay collection she helped me put together. My launch party in January of 2004 for Wyoming Trucks was one of the best nights of my life. I was all about the first sale jubilation.

So, you can see why I didn’t care to get the ribbon. Or the notice in RWR (the RWA magazine).

I came to terms with this long ago (though I know I bring it up now and again), that RWA only considers an author published if the work is in a romance genre. It’s their prerogative and in line with the organization’s mission. What I do mind, though, is that somewhere along the way, I allowed this to make me feel like a newbie again. I feel like the kid sister tagging along with the “real” authors.

My friend, Tawna Fenske, says that one of her most popular blog posts ever is “You ARE a Real Author, Dammit.” In it, she talks about how people treated her differently after she had a book contract. She was suddenly validated in their eyes. Tawna makes the excellent point that it’s up to us to validate ourselves.

To sit quietly in the dark and wait for that bolt from the blue.

10 Replies to “Like a Bolt from the Blue”

  1. I agree with Twana. A few friends and I have had this discussions many times and even at nationals.

    We are writers and yet we let other people dictate how we feel.

    You are an author and even if you weren't published, you are a person worth talking to. You have experience and expertise that others would find valuable.

  2. It's true, Chudney, we all have something – often many somethings – to offer. I'm not sure why we let people make us feel like not so much. Sad, really!

  3. So true…and very well said.

    On the flip side, once we are able to validate ourselves, I think it's up to us to encourage others to do the same (as you are here). Kudos for that. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the link to my blog! I'm still new to RWA and don't really know anything about ribbons or sale listings in the magazine or whatever. For some reason it stresses me out to think about all that, so I just don't deal with it. The book contract is plenty for me 🙂

    Great blog post!
    Tawna

  5. Tawna – I think that's exactly it. That kind of thing does create a lot of stress and expectations. You're the smart one!

  6. What an awesome picture, and equally fantastic post! And I can relate to this b/c my first book was self-published. So I feel like I accomplished something great, but traditional publishers assume it sucks and was rejected by them (it doesn't and it wasn't even submitted to anyone). People outside the industry treat me like I am a "published" author b/c I have a book on Amazon, but in the eyes of many in the business I'm not. I think I will feel pretty special, however, if I manage to land a book contract! 😉 But I won't measure myself by it.

  7. Ah, yes, Elizabeth – the dark shame of the self-pubbed book! How do you hold up your head in public?? You're wise not to measure yourself by industry opinion. It will be nice to get that industry validation, but it's not everything.

  8. Oh, this is a fun post. I am a newbie! I've been writing consistently since first grade. I've never wanted to get any of those stories published. I dabbled in fanfiction in HS, and it was fantastic for what it teaches you about deadlines, and writing buddies, and voice, and characterization, and a million different things – but it's not like I wanted those published. I went to school and received my degree in creative writing, but what you were asked to produce for class very often wasn't allowed to be particularly creative, and since it was graded, I did what I needed to do to get A's. But writing someone else's story? Not my favorite. And now that I've started to find the joy of writing again, and this time I'm serious about pursuing publication as well, it's fascinating how much I feel like I'm back in first grade learning absolutely everything for the first time. It's really interesting.

  9. Elizabeth R, bless you and your enthusiasm! When you're ready to start submitting, just ask and we'll point you in the right direction!

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