The Day Jenni L. Walsh Quit Writing

This week’s Deb topic is about big decisions we’ve made as writers.

i-quitI’d like to talk about that time I decided to quit writing.

Back in 2015, I wore many hats. I was a stay-at-home mom of a feisty toddler. I was a wife. I was a full-time advertising copywriter, who worked remotely while also caring for my daughter. I was growing another human being. I was trying to become a published author. All at once. And I felt like I kept dropping the ball.

My husband reassured me I was doing great. We could live as “pile people.” People who didn’t fold laundry, but put a teetering stack of clean clothes on our bureau and pawed through when we needed a wrinkly shirt to wear.

He reassured me that I was a great mom. But I didn’t believe him, not when I sacrificed so much time away from my daughter to try to make my book dream possible. See, at the time, I was on submission for BECOMING BONNIE. This came after a rather devastating year of being on sub with a different agent for a different MS — that never sold. But, now, I was with a new agent, I had a new MS, and I’d been given another chance.

But to me, that chance felt like it was running out of steam. The rejections were piling up. They were “nice” ones — praising my writing, the concept, the voice… but just didn’t love the project enough to offer — and my agent reassured me we were getting close, but I was losing faith (in my abilities, not hers). You know that piece of advice writers always get: write your next novel. Well, I couldn’t. I was floundering. Big time. My agent tried to help guide me, but every new idea I tried to breathe life into ended up flat-lining.

My husband and I sat down to talk. “Is my dream worth all of this?” I asked him. He still reassured me. I wasn’t convinced.

I was tired. I was pregnant. I had writer’s block. I had spent the first (almost) three years of my daughter’s life seemingly trying to make the impossible, possible.

Hands down, I felt like I had failed. Before my daughter was even born, I set goals for myself:

Publish a book traditionally before baby #1. Nope. The first few MSs I wrote went nowhere. Baby was born. I didn’t sign with my former agent until my daughter was 5 months old (In 2014). Okay, so I was a little far behind, but I was now moving and grooving.

New goal: Get that MS published before we venture down the baby #2 path, in the hopes of my published book doing well enough that I could stop doing the kid/job tango during the day. The idea of doing a kid/kid/job tango from 9 to 5 made my heart rate soar.

But as I already told ya, my first agented MS went nowhere. And in was now 2015, with mere months to go before baby #2 came, and I obviously wouldn’t be publishing a book before his birth. Hell, I was now stomaching the horrible notion that a publication deal for BECOMING BONNIE before his Jan 1, 2016 due date was out of the question.

I cried, a lot. I did a lot of soul-searching. I hated the idea of giving up my insanely talented agent, who I worked so hard to get and who was working so hard to make my dreams come true. But I was at the point where my writing sacrifices (and my associated guilt) seemed to be too great for me to handle without a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I could try to do it,” I told my husband. “I can try to juggle the two kids and the day job and the writing if I have an end point: a release date.”

But I didn’t.

“Maybe you can put off writing for a few years until the kids are older?” he suggested.

That idea felt devastating (and I know it pained my husband to even suggest it. Like me, he struggled with the fact we’re a two-income family). I knew I couldn’t simply push pause with my agent (any agent, not just her). I’d have to start all over again. I wasn’t sure I had that in me.

“I’ll see how this submission plays out,” I said. I wasn’t sure how I’d approach the convo with my agent who I loved, but.. “If Bonn doesn’t sell, I need to be done. For the kids.”

The painful decision had been made. I was going to quit writing.

Of course *wags finger at God* that’s when my agent came to me with amazing news. At 9 months pregnant, I signed a contract with Tor Forge/Macmillan for BECOMING BONNIE. I had my light at the end of the tunnel. And after all I went through, I felt like all my sacrifices had been validated. I’m going to be a published author on May 9, 2017 🙂

On December 9th, I’ll be sharing more of my story over on Brenda Drake’s blog and giving away an early copy of BECOMING BONNIE. I hope you’ll check it out. Or, ya know, you could also preorder my book now 😉

 

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Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.