Coming down from the clouds

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. Nalini NYC RWA 2015

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.Daphne2015

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.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Coming down from the clouds

  1. When opportunities turn out to be closed doors, locked doors, doors slammed in our faces, usually those paths were aren’t the right ones for us.

    In this business it’s not so important to get a contract or an agent. The key is to get the RIGHT contract and the RIGHT agent for you. The door you really wanted to open wasn’t the right one for you. Better to know that now, before you sign a contract with someone who’d turn out later to be a bad fit.

    One thing I took away from the conference is that everyone doesn’t love every book. What we love to read is subjective. But we need people on our team who are excited, thrilled, fangirling like you did with Nalini’s books. The judges of the Daphne feel that way about your story. So will other agents and editors.

    Listen. Do you hear those knobs turning and doors creaking open? I do. And one of them or maybe several of them lead to great things for you.

    I’ll be cheering for you when you find that team and when your books reach the scores of readers who place them on their keeper shelves.

    Such a pleasure to see you in NYC.

    -Lily

  2. Don’t. Give. Up.
    Ever.
    But next time, invite me for the Jack and cheesecake wallow. Some things are just better shared.

  3. It was such a pleasure to meet you Kathleen, and I can’t tell you how glad I am you decided to stay and to remember those words of Nalini’s. It’s often at those very dark times when the tiniest spark takes us and carries us through.
    Best for now Kathleen,

    Nikki Weston (the irish chick at Saturday morning breakfast!)

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