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Month: December 2021

My least favorite part of this book process…

Earlier this week I got my design pages from my publisher! Not only is it a wonderful preview of what my book will look like in print (sans cover), it’s also my last chance to make any edits. In meetings with my publisher and other authors in my cohort, I knew it was coming, and I also was told repeatedly of two things I could do to make sure I was catching any last minute typos: 1) print my design pages on brightly colored paper and 2) read the printed pages out loud.

I think even your average author despises the sound of their own voice (good thing David Sedaris is not average… I can’t imagine anyone else reading his audiobooks). Because I have a speech impediment (stuttering), I hate listening to the sound of my own voice more than most, because the sound of my own voice – even when I am by myself in the master bedroom, because it is the only room in the house with interior locks, after draining my Buc-ees mug of coffee with Bailey’s – is sometimes a legit battle.

But since I can fit the amount of things I know about the business side of books into one tiny pinky nail, I trusted their word and printed out my design pages on bright yellow paper… because it was second cheapest. (Salmon was cheapest… but I just can’t bring myself to stare at that much pink while I read out loud.)

And as much as I would like for this blog post to be a refutation of my publisher’s recommendation… goddammit they were right. I’ve probably read this manuscript at least 20 times and have done so with the eagle eye I’ve been told I have on multiple professional occasions. And yet, by reading it on piss yellow paper in my wavering stutter, I’ve already found missing words, transposed words, and an entire section in the wrong verb tense… and this is AFTER the proofreaders did their worst.

So, I’m going to fumble over my words and finish reading this super-yellow manuscript out loud until page 277, because I am magically catching things I should have caught years ago, and because it’s making my book a better book. Even when I can’t pronounce words that begin with R.

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It only takes one rejection…

Writers deal with a lot of rejection. Years, sometimes decades of rejection. And when they discouraged, their fellow rejectees bolster them up with the same refrain: It only takes one yes.

Sadly, the inverse is also true. It only takes one stinging rejection for all the impostor syndrome to creep back in. I’m lucky in that while I’ve had my fair share of manuscript rejections in the past year, I’ve also had a lot of yeses. This year, I’ve had 3 essays published, a poem, a flash fiction piece, and my third novel is crawling along to its June 2022 publication date.

I recently entered a contest for both fiction and poetry for an all-writer voted publication. Everyone who submits also votes on the submissions, the best from each round move on to the next one, and the top 30 submissions make it into the final issue.

I entered round 1 with 3 of my best poems and a short story I haven’t touched in years, thinking that as a serious, multiply-published author, surely I could crack the top 30 with both my submissions.

Well, I didn’t. My short story finished 131 out of 221, and my poems finished 147 out of 239. I didn’t even make it past the first round, and I read some very weak submissions in the first round. I felt immediately dejected. How could I possibly expect to publish and have any level of commercial success with my novel if I couldn’t even have a short story in the top half of a contest? It wasn’t too late to call my publisher and stop the train and go back to the drawing board. It’s not like I deserved that yes!

But that’s the thing about pity parties. They never last long. And I read the nice feedback I got from the writers who read and ranked my submissions in round 1, and all the criticism was totally fair. And prose and poetry are both incredibly subjective, as they should be. In round 1, one writer ranked my poems the best… another, the worst.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself and listening to those negative thoughts about not being good enough, instead I’m going to be happy for the winners because (the ones I read and voted on anyway) their work was really good. I’m going to look forward to reading the final issue with the top 30 stories and poems because I bet it will be amazing. And I’ll keep grinding away at my work and submit something even better next time.

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