Monday, August 6, 2012
By Erin Cashman
I’m sure you’ve heard about those incredibly lucky people who write a book in a couple of months, send it off to a few agents, and before they know it they are at auction, getting huge advances and ultimately becoming best selling novelists. Usually these authors say something like . . . “An idea just popped into my head so I wrote it down. I never set out to be an author.” I hate these stories. Not because I’m jealous (okay, I’m a little jealous), but because it is so discouraging for the rest of us, the majority of writers – who, if we are lucky enough to garnish a publishing contract at all -- only do so through hours upon hours, years upon years of trying. Of never giving up.
I’ve written for as long as I can remember. It has always been my dream to be a published author, but my father encouraged me to go to law school, so I could support myself. I took his advice, and stopped writing anything except legal briefs and memos for several years. And then one night I had the strangest dream about a family of vampires. I just had to write it down. I finished it a year later, and sent it off to agents and publishers, certain I would realize my dream and become an author.
Boy was I wrong.
After Twilight, romance vampire stories were in demand, not middle-grade adventure ones.
And then I wrote another middle grade adventure novel, about a long lost Irish treasure. This one would certainly be published, I thought. I sent it out to many agents and editors, running each day to the mail box. I received a seemingly endless amount of rejection letters, postcards, and my own letter mailed back to me, with Sorry, not for me, scribbled along the bottom. One agent even sent me two rejection letters! I guess she really didn’t like it!
And then a few encouraging letters and emails trickled in, all with very positive feedback. These agents and editors loved my writing and enjoyed the characters and suspenseful plot. BUT – treasure stories weren’t selling.
I realized then that I would likely never be published. But I discovered something far more important. I write because I love to. I wasn’t about to stop writing because dozens of people – experts in the publishing field – told me my manuscripts were not good enough, or wouldn’t sell. I may never be published, I thought, – but so what. Writing could be my hobby, not my profession. As much as I would love to be a published author, in the end I wrote for myself.
And so I started The Exceptionals, which is about a teenage girl named Claire who must use her long-ignored ability to communicate with animals to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of the most talented students at Cambial Academy, a school for teens with special abilities. I loved writing The Exceptionals. I really enjoyed thinking up the different “specials”, and how they would influence the characters and the plot. Creating Dylan (a gorgeous but secretive guy who may know more than he’s letting on) was especially fun. He is interesting and mysterious. Every day I woke up and couldn’t wait to write!
Six months later I finished, and I sent it to about ten agents and editors. I didn’t run to the mailbox, or obsessively check my phone messages or email. I had no expectation that it would be published. A couple of weeks later I got a call from an agent, Erica Silverman from the great literary agency, Trident, offering to represent me. She loved The Exceptionals! I couldn’t believe it! I spoke with Erica for about an hour. She was wonderful. I not only had an agent – I had a GREAT agent!
The very next day Pam Glauber, a very talented editor at Holiday House, called and made an offer to buy the book! So after years of writing, and two novels behind me, I was finally going to be a published author. Third time was a charm! I was elated.
I am so glad that I never gave up on myself or on my dream. I write as often as I can, and I write what I want to write, not what I think will sell. I realize I may never see another book in print (although I hope I do!) but in the end, I write for myself, as I always have.
So remember, writers write. They don’t count their rejection letters, wallow in self-pity, or throw their laptop out the window (although I am guilty of the first two – and was tempted to do the third!). If you are a writer, write. Keep at it. Maybe you’ll find an agent, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll sell your book to a traditional publisher, maybe you’ll self-publish. Maybe you’ll just keep trying. In the end, you are still a writer – whether you are one of the lucky few to be published, or not. You owe it to yourself to give it your all. It may not be an easy path. Like me, it may take you years (six to be exact!) and be more hard work than you can ever imagine. But no matter what the outcome, you’ll be glad you did. Because writers write.