Shameless Self-Promotion? A Lesson Learned, Not Once But Twice

Party-ImageWay back when I was just a young thing, fresh out of college and braving the wilds of New York, I got a job at a magazine that shall remain nameless here (but if you know me, you know which one — and it’s not hard to figure it out). I worked my ass off at that magazine. I fact-checked, I researched, I interviewed people, I reported, I wrote, and I started again from scratch the next day, clocking in 50, 60 hours a week, coming in on my day off after closing the magazine at 2 or 4 a.m. the night before so I could prove myself some more. I rocked that job. I did. But it’s only now — some 15 years later — that I realize my fatal mistake.
I never told anyone how much I rocked that job. I presumed they saw how hard I was working, and they’d take notice. I’m sure they did notice. But because I never spoke up — and because, in that fierce world, no one spoke up for me, because why should they? — I worked and worked and worked. And someone else got promoted. And then it happened again. And again.
I’m sure there were lots of factors at play. Other people who were working hard. Sure. Other people who had mentors looking out for them. Other people who announced just how much they were accomplishing. What’s that they say about the squeaky wheel?
See, being a little brown girl — or maybe just female, period — I always thought it was keep your head down, do good work, and you’ll be rewarded. Others will notice — and they will speak up on your behalf. Mentors. Colleagues. People who have your back. Lesson learned, right? Or maybe not.
Okay, so you’re like, “But Sona, that was 15 years ago and what does that have to do with this week’s theme?” Well, it’s just that it happened again. Not so long ago. Grad school, the great race to the finish line, and me, knowing the road ahead of me with a full-time job and a baby, I knew I wasn’t going to win. So I did what I thought people did — cheered on the others, celebrated their successes as if they were my own. Because we were tight, right? So in a way, they were my own. But when D and I finally reached our little finish line, and looked around for the party, there was none to be found. Those very people who we’d been cheering on — critiquing pages and queries, helping with agent searches and talking through stories? Those people weren’t up to doing the same for us. Jealousy? Maybe. Politics? Likely. Competition? Sure.
And so the second stumble, I nearly fell. But that’s when I realized something important. I have a voice. I have to use it. Publishing is a rough ride no matter what. So taking the time to acknowledge little triumphs is important. And like Amy and Colleen and Karma, I don’t want to be obscene or annoying about my successes. But I’m not going to celebrate them quietly in a corner alone (with D and my husband and the kids), either. If I’m not loud and proud about my YAYs, who will be? And how will those people who actually do want to celebrate with me — like the lovely ladies here at the DebBall, and in our debut crews at the Fearless Fifteeners and Class of 2K15 — know when to bring on the streamers? I want to be a part of the party — when it’s my success, or when it’s that of my writing community.
There’s a lot of “me, me, me” din out there these days, and I don’t want to add to the noise. But I also have learned that unless I speak up and speak out for myself, I’ll go unheard. And that’s when I have to suck it up — because it does feel icky, still — and step up and announce my presence. Because these days, the Deb ladies, we do have a lot to celebrate — from biggies like book covers, to little big things, like someone whose opinion you truly respect telling you they loved reading your book. So loud and proud, ladies!
And just so this shameless self-promo post doesn’t end all serious and heavy, let’s take another gander at that delish cover for THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, shall we? Enjoy!
Cover

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An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

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Author: Sona Charaipotra

An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

8 Replies to “Shameless Self-Promotion? A Lesson Learned, Not Once But Twice”

  1. Ack!!! You are the sweetest!!! It is pretty, isn’t it? And you are so right! We do need to be proud to share our successes. We can’t count on others to do it for us!

  2. I learned that lesson too, Sona, early on in my career and have since embraced carrying my own little pom poms around 😉 Plus, I’ve found these days that when I support and cheer on other writers in particular, they return the favor and then some. That’s why having a community — a real community, where there is give and take — is important, and should be nurtured.

    1. I want little pompoms, too! And yes — there are some awesome, supportive writers out there, like you ladies! But sometimes in this business, it feels like some people don’t realize that it’s not a zero sum game. Their loss, I guess.

  3. A work friend and I had drinks with a few contracted employees in our office who have an IT background. My friend had just moved to their department and mentioned it was a lateral move. Two of the guys said, “but you still asked for more money, right?” and my friend said, no it was a lateral move–no increase in pay. They shook their heads and say you always need to ask for more money.

    Maybe it’s because women aren’t taught to ask for more when we’re already told we can’t have it, at least not in the workplace. I would say maybe it’s the type of work, but my friend and these guys were colleagues. I think it can be really hard to take a bolder step to advocate for yourself. I sat there thinking how I had an opportunity where I could have leverage for more pay because essentially I saved my company a lot of money by switching job positions due to a sticky situation when the economy got bad. But I was scared.

    It’s scary, but you’re right. You need to advocate for yourself. Maybe it takes a few years of experience to see it, but I think it’s important.

    1. I do think it’s a female thing, to a large extent. It’s like we’re trained not to promote ourselves, and then we lose out, even if we’re working just as hard (or harder) to prove ourselves. It took me falling a few times for me to really realize it, and to do something to change that aspect of myself.

  4. Sona, I never knew it but the magazine world and the high tech world have a lot in common! Of course in the high tech world, when you’re a woman and speak up, they tell you you’re being pushy:-)

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