These were the words of a little Sesame Street storybook about different people’s vocations. My Dad used to read it to me when I was younger. At the very end of the book – on the back page – the above sentence was printed.
I remember being really aggravated by that muppet. Because I knew I was supposed to be in her shoes. And I wasn’t there yet.
People underestimate the minds of children. I really think they do. I remember so vividly what it was like to be a child, and I wasn’t nearly as stupid or innocent or simple as most adults – whether they admit it or not – take children to be. For one, I thought almost the same way I do now. My consciousness, character, and personality were the same. The difference is that now I have more memories. I can look back over a few more years. And those years – and events during them – have informed me and taught me things, sometimes lessons I would rather not have learned.
One thing I knew at a very young age was that I needed to write. I think “needed” is the best word, as I have struggled with life at times when I am not making up stories. Storying is my way of dealing with reality. It’s not an escape. It’s a solution.
I knew when adults would stoop down to talk to me (like they do when they speak to children) and when they would use that tone of voice and say “What do you want to be when you grow up, young lady?” that they weren’t going to take me remotely seriously. I could have said I wanted to be a contortionist, and I would have gotten exactly the same result that I got when I said the word “author”. They didn’t believe me. They thought it was cute.
It wasn’t cute. It wasn’t a fad or a hobby. To this day, when people refer to my writing as a hobby, I grind my teeth. Writing is a serious business.
On Thursday night, I held my first four books in my hands. I leafed through their pages. I felt their satisfying weight in my palm. I keep saying it feels surreal. I say that because while other people look and say “That’s fantastic!” they don’t have the background I have. They don’t know how many times I just about gave up or did give up. They don’t know how many rejections I received. They don’t know how many times people treated my work like it didn’t matter… how many times I was treated like I was delusional. Belief is everything. I can honestly say that while I am currently surrounded with very supportive friends and family, there was a point when literally no one believed in me except my younger brother (and he was of an age that no one took him seriously). There was a point when I was alone, except for my God.
Alone is a hard concept. It’s even harder when you’re still a kid and there’s something that you desperately desire to do for reasons inexplicable to yourself… and no one else knows how to do it or will help you do it. After you have exhausted all the willing help around you and people have gotten tired of your persistence, you are there, alone. The only words left for you are these ones:
“Wait till you’re older.”
“Try something else.”
“You’re banging your head against a brick wall.”
“Maybe this isn’t your thing.”
“You’re really not that good.”
I came to a point when I realised, at approximately sixteen years of age, that there were no more mentors for me. I had tired out my previous ones, and no one else was going to help. I didn’t go to school, so my English teacher wasn’t an option. The people who had always helped me make decisions or who had made decisions for me were advising me to try something new now… After all, a fad that lasts for years can get a bit painful to live with.
I couldn’t let it go. I came to the horrible cold realisation that I had to do it by myself. I had to research literary agents and publishers myself. I had to save up five hundred dollars to get my book manuscript assessed myself. I had to query them myself. I knew no authors who were willing to help me. Everyone I contacted never emailed back. I had to choose who to contact, how to contact them, and when to contact them. No help. 99% chance of failure. A complete nightmare.
That did me in. I didn’t think, at that age, that I could write a book and edit it and query agents and publishers with regards to publication by myself. I gave up.
Three months later, when I was in a tailspin, I knew I’d made a mistake. I went back and tried it all again, this time not alone, but knowing that God was watching and He would do what was right.
Without telling anyone, I rewrote the book and paid a manuscript assessor five hundred dollars to assess it. I began querying literary agents. In February of 2012, the miracle happened. An international literary agency signed me up.
Things got a lot better after that. People began to take my writing much more seriously. But it was still two long years of rejections before I got my multi-book publishing contract.
There are several things I wish people had told me about getting a book published.
- You will panic a few months before publication. You will probably hyperventilate and die. This is because you’re terrified of reaching your goal. Terror is what stops most people from reaching theirs.
- The editing will kill you.
- The editing will kill you.
- The editing will kill you.
- Book sales are mythical.
- But seeing your book out there is a feeling so cool that you will revisit your Amazon page approximately 67 times a day.
- Signing a book feels like tagging someone’s new fence. You will expect a librarian to leap out of nowhere and throttle you.
- Holding your book for the first time is like holding a baby that doesn’t puke or cry.
- You will realise you are a windbag when you see how many pages the physical copy of your book actually is.
- You will look at your work and think: “Ha. It looks like a real book.” That’s because it is, idiot. You just… don’t think of it as that real because you did it.
- Illustrators will rain from the sky, asking you for artistic opportunities.
- Aspiring writers will appear everywhere and send you their work. You must be nice, because you remember how hard it was to be in their shoes.
- You will look at your book heaps. You just probably won’t read it.
- Vindication is very sweet. Answered prayer is still sweeter.
Of course, when you get four books published in one year, you have all of this multiplied by four. Seasoned authors warned me at the start of this year that I would be busy. I said: “I have the books written. Hopefully I’ll be okay.”
There were times when I was definitely not okay, largely because of points two to four above. I died many times this year. Every death produces new life, however. My forty music students have seen me more scatter-brained than ever. They laugh and look at my books and sometimes even pester their school librarians about them.
One year. Four books. 2015 has been an epoch in my life.
Thank You, God.