I mean that literally, by the way. I just spent 20 hours flying between the US and Korea and now I can’t see 2 feet outside my window because of the cloud cover. It’s been raining since I returned. Nature is telling me to stay inside and write.
I’m not a newbie with Nationals although I’ve been away from the game for a while. I had high expectations for this year. I was returning as a published author. I’d finished 2 books in the last 2 years, a remarkable feat for me as I am a slow-as-molasses-in-January kind of writer. I was going to see old friends. Meet my critique partner. Make new friends. Learn some stuff. I’d even finaled in the Daphne. I was ready for anything.
Except what I got.
I found myself particularly fearless initially. Living in Korea has made me a more adventurous person and I explored the city with an excitement I’d not felt on previous visits. NYC is overwhelming: the noise, the people, the traffic, the constant motion of all of the above. But there’s an incredible freedom when you can actually read and speak the language.
I attended some incredible workshops, learned a ton of things about publishing and marketing, relearned some things about my craft, made new friends (hey Micki and Dave!), renewed old friendships (hey gang from NEORWA!), won an award (thanks KOD!) and even met one of my idols.
So Friday when I walked into my agent appointment I was confident though nervous. More nervous than I usually am for those sorts of things. I tend to forget my name but I had the notecard-of-all-details clutched in my hand. I was friend, but didn’t gush. Knowledgeable without being overly rehearsed. Positive, professional, poised.
And the answer was no.
I wasn’t prepared for that. I was prepared for – even expecting – send me 3 chapters and I’ll look it over. I had an award-winning, completed manuscript. But she wasn’t interested because it wasn’t marketable in her opinion, as is. In other words – not an alpha male cowboy/pregnant bride kind of story. Well hell. Crushed I stumbled back to my room. I hadn’t realized how much I’d expected that yes until it was a no.
In true fashion, I retreated, ready to throw in the towel. Feeling exactly the way I did when I quit this rejection-treadmill years ago. Why bother? I went into my cave to lick my wounds. The definition of insanity, after all, is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
I drowned my sorrows in Jack Daniels and cheesecake and went to bed preparing to leave in the morning. I didn’t see a point in staying. But come morning, I reminded myself the room was paid and breakfast was free. And the keynote speaker – Nalini Singh – was the reason I’d signed up.
Side note – I try to have meals with strangers at conference, so I insert myself in a table to meet new folks. On Friday morning I sat at breakfast with three strangers, happily talking about writing and NYC. They flashed a pic of Nalini Singh on the screen and in true fan girl fashion, I started to gush to the ladies at the table how excited I was to hear Nalini, how much I enjoyed her books, etc etc etc. When the writer to my right smiled, and held out her hand to the other two ladies and quipped (in a New Zealand accent) “Let me introduce Nalini’s sister and mother.” Face palm. Her sister, with a bright smile, quickly reassured me I’d said only positive things and we had a great conversation about family and travels after that.
But back to my depression…so I trudged off to breakfast Saturday morning to hear Nalini, convinced I’d leave afterwards with my tail tucked, dreams crushed. I’m fortunate that I have friends as supportive as mine. They listened to my woes, understanding the disappointment. Even strangers reached out, offering support. And then the message of Nalini’s keynote came across: Don’t. Give. Up. And it became the message of the day.
I decided the stay, I’d paid for all of it I told my ever-practical side. Nothing awaited me at home except more wallowing and I’d done enough of that. And that message – don’t give up – kept sounding off above the noise. I started to see my insanity in a different light. Trying to publish what I write isn’t insane. Expecting the market to change IS insane.
Based on the info shared by many talented, resourceful and giving professionals around me that week, I started to formulate a new plan. It’s not the plan I arrived with on Tuesday. It’s not the plan I focused on the last (mumble mumble) number of years. But the definition of insanity…well you know the rest.