Reality Check

26 Apr

I spent this Saturday at a writer’s conference.  No agents this time, just a few editors from publishing houses, other writers, some illustrators, and lots of good information.

It was very different from the last conference I attended. There, the intimacy of being publicly critiqued for two grueling days created an immediate bond with the other authors; it was like we had been to war together, dodging bullets and taking hits, pulling each other back up from the sludge every time we got hammered by the instructor.

This weekend’s conference (aside from lunch, where I did sit with some cool people) felt like work.

Halfway through, I found myself eating cookies to stay awake and wondering if I even belonged there. It was designed for children’s authors, and yes, I have written a children’s book, but somewhere between the quilted vests and homemade bags, I began to feel like I might be the only one who thought Carrie Bradshaw’s idea for Cathy and the Magic Cigarettes was funny. “Sex and the City” Three’s a Crowd (1998) – Memorable quotes

But I stayed and listened and took notes, anxious for the end of the day, for the dangling carrot: the critiques of our written work that would be handed out as we left. Like Ralphie, I knew mine would get an A+++++++.

As we filed out, I snatched the bright orange folder with my name on it and walked quickly to my car.  I climbed in and like a woman hiding alone in the shadowy corner of the parking lot, secretly bingeing on four double cheeseburgers, I indulged in my drug. I opened the folder and began to read the critique. This was the moment I would be discovered, where I would suddenly become a success in this glutted world of writers.  I had been submitting my manuscript for 5 months after all. How long could it take?

It was not awesome.

The work was good, but needed some adjustments.  So, like Ralphie, I trudged home, pouting the whole way.  I tossed the offensive folder on the counter, went to the fridge and grabbed a beer.  I joked to my friends and husband about adding vampires to make it marketable.  The agents and editors just didn’t get it.  It couldn’t be me.  It couldn’t be my work.

But, of course, it was.  And after a full day to breathe and take it in, and a very long bike ride yesterday, I can see it now.  The critique is spot on, and the manuscript isn’t ready.  Yet.

Writing is fun.  Struggling to get published is not. Revising and editing, critique and rejection is painful, and can take years.  It hurts. It feels like someone just called your kid an ugly mutant.  But it’s invaluable, and essential to push to the next level, to grow. And I’m learning that, over and over. This weekend brought it right back home. It is hard to get published.

And that is why it is special.


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One Response to “Reality Check”

  1. Erin April 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    I’m not entirely sure, but I think the odds of winning the lottery might actually be better than the odds of getting published. Especially if the author, like me, is secretly hoarding their manuscript away in a Magical Vault of Perfectionism and Utter Fear.

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