Thursday, 4 December 2008

Tough Cookies of the World Unite

First of all, thank you thank you to the lovely Karen at for giving me my first blogging award, which I've proudly posted on the right! I'm chuffed on two counts: getting the award, which I hope also to pass on to some of my favourite bloggers, and learning how to get the dratted image onto my blog (teenage boy came in handy for that one!)

I'm sorry I didn't blog last week - pressure of work and a bit of a cold are my excuses, plus the startling revelation from my current agent that she's about to retire: all this knocked me for six and I didn't have the heart to write about bookish things. Those of you who are regular readers will have guessed that 2008 has been a bit of a sticky year for me. You may remember back in June 2007 I took up 'Hopeful Writer Stance'. Well, I'm still there, balanced on one leg, head slightly less in the clouds than before, trying not to wobble, trying to keep the fixed grin pinned to my face. Stomach like a washboard, my dear. (Not). Writing is a continual learning curve: you learn the techniques of the actual composition, you learn the discipline of editing, you do your best to take a professional approach and maximise your chances of publication. You write promotional copy, you think of all the angles, you are careful not ever to sound like a 'difficult author' in any communication with people in the publishing world. However, ultimately you are helpless. The worst aspect for me over the past two years is that I have had to wait. And wait. And wait. For cursory responses, for gushing regrets, for news that another series similar to mine was signed by that particular publisher only a week ago, for praise for my writing but condemnation of my genre. I've been told the central features of my book are no longer in fashion, that booksellers are tired of series (N.B. Booksellers - not readers. We know where the true power lies.) Then I've seen new series signed up, or books with fantasy elements like mine win prizes because the kids out there haven't yet been told those elements are passe. Then there are the publishers who can't be bothered to reply. A ghastly literary limbo that has lasted a full eighteen months.

So what now? Maybe I'll look back on this year as The Year of Taking Stock. Do I go on writing? If so, what do I write? Do I keep on believing in my children's book, a book which a couple of years ago gave me such incredible pleasure to write? Can I recapture that joy and enthusiasm or has it been bludgeoned out of me? If I write something else, what? Will I have to go through all this again - and again - and again? Or do I become mistress of my own fate and self-publish: ruin myself financially in all probability but at least not be at the mercy of Those Who Make Us Wait.

My agent's departure is a wake-up call. It's unnerving and scary to no longer be represented by an agency I've been with for years - but it also has potential. It will make me move on: I need to find someone who will nag me and reassure me and guide me in my dithering and energetically fight my corner. Wish me luck in the search.

This is for sure: we writers have to be tough cookies. Terriers. If you're writing too, hang on in there, won't you? Let's show them.


Lane said...

Writing is the easy part. Well the easier part. Learning the system and playing the waiting game seems to be far harder and the lack of control, the hardest part of all.

You've had a tough old few months and I wish you luck - lots of it and bucket loads of Terrier Tenacity:-)

Lorna F said...

Thank you so much, Lane.

KAREN said...

It's good to think of this as a beginning rather than an ending, but scary none the less.

It sounds like you've really been through the mill recently. You might be interested to see some of the posts on l-plate author's blog (on my bloglist) - she's had similar nightmare scenarios over the past couple of years. Maybe if we knew all this before we started we wouldn't bother!

Hang in there though - you'll get that washboard stomach yet :o))

Jean said...

Good luck in your search for a new agent. It might be a wonderful new beginning, leading to a chance to just show all Those Who Made You Wait.

By the way, thanks for the uploading images instructions - it worked!

Lorna F said...

Karen - Thanks so much for this. I'll take a look at l-plate's blog. Did you notice I managed to put your advice into practice and do a link?! You're my techno-tutor! ;-)

Jean - Thanks to you too - it's great to have support. And I'm so glad my garbled instructions worked!

Dale Salwak said...

In my new book, TEACHING LIFE: LETTERS FROM A LIFE IN LITERATURE,I include these words: "Yes, writing is difficult, but we aren't alone in feeling its rigors. Behind every text there is a living, breathing human being who overcame his or her own challenges to bring the thoughts to paper. In English classes a study of an author's life is an expected part of the curriculum, but note how rarely our own professors of, say, economics or mathematics or history ever shared with us the lives of the writers behind their chosen texts. (How dull information can be when deprived of personality.) If I were teaching a history of mathematics, for example, certainly I'd want to relate the enormous struggles that Pascal or Pythagoras endured to achieve what we now so blithely take for granted. Or select any classic of economics: it didn't just pop onto the page. It may represent many years of haphazard, fitful, incoherent thought and discovery before its author hammered out a text of principles and examples that became assigned reading on campuses across the country." Best wishes for your continued success, Dale Salwak.

Lorna F said...

Thanks for your interesting comment, Dale. I for one am addicted to reading biographies and when I'm teaching it always helps if I give my students a sense of the cultural context and biographical detail of the writer whose work they are studying.