Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Stories' Story

One of the questions most frequently asked of authors is, ‘what made you start writing.’ It’s also one of the most difficult to answer because, for me, writing is something of an addiction. I’m not sure why I became addicted, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be cured, but one day I simply had to write a book. So I sat down with a spiral notepad and filled up the pages with gibberish. To be quite honest, I had read a romance novel by a best selling author, decided it wasn’t very good, and became certain I could do as well.

As it turned out, I was terribly mistaken. But I didn’t know that until I’d finished my manuscript. I always thought that once I had done so, I’d be able to move on…do other things…laundry perhaps. But after the first draft was completed I realized some of the mistakes I had made and thought I could do better. So I rewrote it, secure in the knowledge that, once it was finished I’d be ‘normal’ again. But by the time the thing was typed I was totally hooked. I bought The Writers Market, started sending my work out and joined the local RWA branch. I also organized a critique group and began another novel.

But getting published was not an easy task for me. It was a long, painful and ugly process. I can’t tell you how many times I swore I’d quit. In fact, my husband finally said, “I think you should quit. Then, when people ask, we’ll say, yeah she was pretty good, but she’s kind of a quitter.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason I sold my first book, Surrender My Heart, was because Susan Sizemore was a golden heart finalist and she was one of my critique sisters. Therefore, I HAD to go to New Orleans to the RWA conference to cheer her on. And it was there that I met Ellen Edwards, senior editor at Avon Books. She sat down beside me at the opening ceremony and asked if I was a writer, if I sent my work out and who I sent it to. I said, “Yes, yes,” and “you.” At which point she got a sort of deer in the headlights expression on her face and swore to read my manuscript. Six months later I got a call from her publishing house. They were interested, but wanted to make sure the manuscript was still ‘available’ before they finished reading it. In my excitement I’m afraid I may have asked, “Available for what?” In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was thinking. Bird cages? Fire starting? To make a long story somewhat shorter, they promised to get back to me in two weeks. A month went by before I got the call.

But sixteen years, 30 novels of various kinds, and 150 rejections later, I’m an overnight success. Well, okay, I’m an overnight…wannabe success. But I’m still plugging away. To me, tenacity is all important. In fact, I kept this Calvin Coolidge quote above my desk for years.

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

So how about you? What’s the magic ingredient that makes your dreams come true?



Kylie said...

Lois is One Hot Mess available yet? I'm so excited! I love those books!

I don't think there's anything magic about the ingredient that keeps us plugging away. It's old fashioned perseverance. Maybe a dash of stubbornness. A sprinkle of hope. Yep, that sounds like the recipe for insanity, all right, LOL.

Playground Monitor said...

I think hope keeps me going -- hope that maybe one day all the pieces will come together and it'll all work out.

I am just loving these sale stories. Keep 'em coming!


Cindy Gerard said...

Lois - GREAT new look for your Bantam books! They ought to fly off the shelves!!
I think you nailed it in one. Persistence. Perseverance. Determination to fly in the face of gale force winds. Old Calvin was dead on right. It's like hiking the Grand Canyon. Once you're in, the only way to get out is to keep on walking. Same goes for getting sold. Keep on writing!

Helen Brenna said...

Lois, thanks for sharing. I remember when you sold - I was so happy for you!

Love your new cover - didn't know you'd written for Harlequin!

I think, to begin with, we all have to have a dream. It's interesting how many of us don't.

I'm trying to figure out now that I'm published what that dream is/should be!

lois greiman said...

Kylie, insanity. :) Yup.

Marilyn, keep believing, darlin'. Cuz it just can't happen unless you do.

lois greiman said...

No, One Hot Mess won't be out until March 24, but I'm starting to like the cover too.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I couldn't persist without cockeyed optimism.

But, Lois...Calvin Coolidge?

Debra Dixon said...

Lois! I love that quote from Calvin Coolidge! But I'm with Kathleen...Calvin Coolidge?

Not the sort of quote I expected from him. But, you know, maybe it is the unexpectedness of it that makes me remember it now.

lois greiman said...

Calvin Coolidge--gotta take those quotes where you can get 'em.

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, you're an inspiration in more ways than you know. And who else would resurrect old Calvin for a good lesson and a chuckle?

A bit old YES to the fact that persistence is the key to life. Showing up. Being there. Making the effort, even when you don't feel like it. Meeting the blank page with your loins girded and wrestling it into. . . unblankness.

And what the hell are girded loins? Related to girdles? Or antique hernia supports? Do I have to quit using that phrase just because I'm not sure what it means?

There isn't exactly a magic ingredient in my life. . . but there is faith. I believe in possibilities and in the future and in love. Because I've seen (and experienced) true love's transformative power between a man and a woman. And I've witnessed the unfolding of possibilities in a human heart as it grows and matures. And I've bet on (and invested in) the future and won. More than once. So I guess it's partly experience. And I'm once again living the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."

All of that woo-woo stuff makes sense to me. And when I'm off my spiritual game and neglecting that part of my lifelines, things go to Heck in a handbasket.

lois greiman said...

Gird your loins!! I love that one too. Don't care what it means. Just gonna keep using it. :)

Kathleen Eagle said...

How about "Screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail!"

(They were about to kill a king, but we can ratchet down a few notches.)

Candace said...

Lois, I've got that exact same quote in a frame above my computer monitor. Right beside it is my other favorite quote -- "Live! Live! Live!" from Auntie Mame -- which I sometimes need to be reminded to do.