Do it. Apply for the 2021 Debutante Ball.

I’m going to be honest with you, 2021 debutantes. I almost didn’t apply for the Debutante Ball.

I was working on my sequel, over a year away from going through the pre-publication shuffle that is copyediting and publicity and galley review. I felt like I wasn’t a “real author” at all. I remember staring at the Debutante Ball website, at blog entries from debutantes like Layne Fargo and K.A. Doore and Cass Morris and Kimmery Martin, telling myself I wasn’t good enough to apply.

Let’s stop here and be honest: that kind of feeling isn’t real. It’s just impostor syndrome. It’s 100% real, and it’s 100% infectious to trad-pub debuts, and if you’re not ready, it might sneak up behind you and gag you.

Don’t let it.

You’re good enough.

Look how far you’ve come. If you find it hard, look how far I’ve come. Gosh. This month alone, I’m scheduled for twelve convention panels. I have an award nomination. My novel is getting great reviews (that I’m not reading, and that was an important step I learned here on the Debutante Ball). I’m no longer scared of this. I’m no longer sitting in the corner.

And it’s easy to sit in the corner. I write in a very specific genre that’s used to that feeling—we we purveyors of space opera are used to sitting in the corner, writing wizards and rocketships for our small, loyal, cool-as-hell audiences while the rest of the literary world kinda tries to forget we exist (every so often, a well-known literary author will pen a book about robots or pandemics, then claim that they “aren’t writing science fiction,” which, friends, is hilarious to me.)

The point is, we don’t expect much.

The Debutante Ball helped me out of that corner. It helped me to expect more. These kind and wonderful women have shared their worlds with me, and listened as I shared mine. On top of that, writing every week about my journey—about what it took to get here and what it’s going to take to go further—helped me become a better writer, learn more about my process, and, most importantly, helped me grow as fast as I needed to in order to face the wild ride that is the lead-up to debut. Most importantly, it helped me leave that old imposter syndrome in the dust, because every week I was stepping up as an authority, as a debut, as someone with something to say.

And maybe you’re reading this now, saying something like “gosh, I know I sold my novel, but I have a lot of trepidation about what happens next.” That’s okay. All five of us have been there. We’re here to tell you that you’re going to rock this. You’re going to kill it. And we can’t wait to watch.

You’re somebody. You have something to say. No matter how loud the imposter syndrome gets.

Why not say it here?

Click here to apply to become a 2021 Debutante.

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Karen Osborne

KAREN OSBORNE is a writer, visual storyteller and violinist. Her short fiction appears in Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny and Fireside. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, is forthcoming in 2020 from Tor Books.

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