Late yesterday, I attended the July meeting of the Calhoun Area Writers group and listened to guest speaker, Sarah Rowan, discuss the development and launch of her first book titled, Authentic Happiness: Devotions for the Slumbering Believer (Westbow Press, 2014). With no experience in writing or publishing, she not only wrote a book, but she sold over 1,100 copies of her book in the first seven months—by hand. That got my attention because I know how difficult it is to sell books out of the trunk of the car.
But it was something else she discussed that resonated most with me. Her account of being under “spiritual attack” weeks before her book was published knocked my mind back to January of 2014, just a few short weeks before my book, Project Keepsake, was released.
In the eleventh hour, I had to ask all story contributors to sign a legal release form allowing me to print their stories in the book. It protected the publisher and me against future lawsuits—standard practice in the world of anthology publication. Three story contributors pulled out of the project.
One writer sent a rather spirited email my way accusing me of being selfish and greedy. She reprimanded me like a teacher scolds a devious little schoolgirl saying, “You stand to profit from my writing, and I will not allow that to happen.”
My character was under attack, and it stung. I lost sleep over the email.
Project Keepsake evolved from my love of storytelling, my passion for writing, and my interest in the objects people keep. I never thought about making a grand fortune from the book. I often joked, “If Project Keepsake becomes a New York Times bestseller, we’ll all be rich.” But I knew there was little to no chance of fame and fortune occurring, even though the book is delightful.
The following morning, I sat in my office in distress thinking about calling off the entire project. “What am I doing?” I thought to myself. “I’m no writer.”
Like Sarah Rowan referenced in her speech last night, I had allowed doubt to permeate my psyche. I was under spiritual attack, and I was going down like a wide receiver being tackled inches from the end zone. That’s when my husband appeared in the doorway.
I said, “My character means everything to me. If this person believes I am a horrible person, how many others are thinking it, too? And what if the book bombs?”
“Are you kidding me? Suck it up!” Gene said in a louder, firmer voice than he usually uses. “This is what you’ve wanted for three years. Don’t let that woman’s email get to you. That’s bullshit.”
He turned and walked away.
An hour later, friend and fellow-writer, Renea Winchester, called to check in on me. I often ponder the timing of her call that morning.
Renea is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy, Farming Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for Newly Published Authors, so when she shares her wisdom, I listen.
Renea told me that she, too, had experienced a moment of weakness just before her first book was published. She urged me to push through it. She said, “Remember—it is always darkest before the dawn. It will be fine.”
My husband’s tough love and my friend’s gentle encouragement were what I needed to move forward that day.
The book was published, no one called me out for being a despicable person, and everything was—and is—fine, fine, fine.
Do all authors go through these deep trenches of doubt on their way to publication? Apparently most of us do.
I think the take away is this: We must talk about our experiences in writing and publishing with each other, we must reach down and lift up our fellow writers who have stumbled or fallen, we must be teachers and encouragers to upcoming authors, and most of all, we must be kind to one another. I certainly needed “a lift” that day, and two people I love and admire came to my rescue. I hope I can do the same for another writer one day.