There’s one thing that my wonderful mother (Mama to me, because when you’re southern, it’s always Mama) will tell you about me. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it. We’re not talking about your average contrariness. We’re talking downright oneriness. Yep, that’s me.
Sona, Colleen, Amy, and Karma have all been so right this week when they’ve written about all the people who contribute to an author writing a book. I’d be no where without my family, friends, teachers, agent, editor, and, of course, wildly supportive and loving husband. But my book also would never be if it hadn’t been for all the people who in some way–intentionally or not–put up a roadblock (or even just a little speedbump) on my way to getting The Moment of Everything published.
Rejection and obstacles are a part of any writer’s life, and I believe overcoming both of these have made me a better writer and The Moment of Everything a better book. So here’s a tribute to five people who unintentionally helped my novel into the world. (No names mentioned:-)
- My Creative Writing 101 professor in college–I was an English major in school, but my intention was to go into journalism or technical writing. Though I loved novels and read all the time, I never thought much about writing fiction. But I ended up taking a creative writing class on a whim. To say the professor did everything he could to discourage his students would be like saying Lenin was just a bit strict on the peasants. I’ve never fought so hard for a “B” in my entire life, and I really believe the only reason I got that far was because I bought a copy of his short story collection and asked him to sign it. I learned nothing in his class about how to tell a story or even what made a good story. His final words to me were, “It’s a good thing you are seeking a profession in computers.” Not kidding!
- Guy I went out with ONCE–When I told him that my goal was to have a career as a novelist, he first asked if I was writing a fiction novel (redundancy badge achieved!) and then said, “I don’t see any point in a second date when you have such an unrealistic goal of maintaining your income level.” Hey, it is Silicon Valley, after all.
- Soul-crushing manager–So, so many times, I drove home exhausted and drained, but determined to write so I’d never have another boss like that again.
- Agent who emailed me a rejection (literally!) 5 seconds after I emailed her a query–Her note started with “After carefully reading of your manuscript….”.
- My father–I write this without any bitterness at all. My father was a complicated person with many demons he was not capable of handling, so I give him a pass. But in his own unintentional way, he led me down this path. My father was a biologist, a very educated man, but he was also controlling and suspicious of things he didn’t understand. One of those things was my love of stories. He didn’t really have a problem with my books until I got to about third grade. At that point he didn’t want me reading novels, only non-fiction books. He felt that fiction was a fantasy world and that if I read fiction then I wouldn’t have a realistic view of life. But as I mentioned above, the best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it. I did as he wanted me to and read a lot of non-fiction–truckloads of biographies and history books–but I also became obsessed with novels. I snuck them into my life whenever I could. And here I am today, the author of one. I think I would have always been a reader, but being a lover of fiction always feels a bit subversive to me. And honestly, that makes it fun. And I have my dad–in his own way–to thank for that.
OK, the truth is that I probably would have written The Moment of Everything even if I hadn’t had these people in my life. But the point is that sometimes the obstacles we face can be just as helpful as loving support in getting what we want. Each and every one of these people made me more determined to have a life of books, both writing and reading them. So anyone out there feeling crushed by rejection or discouragement, just don’t. Put your ornery hat on and get all stubborn like! Get those words on a page! And find the people who will love them.