Sunday, January 06, 2008

NGU: Hard Work Truly Does Pay Off

(January 9th, 2008) Happy Birthday to Dave Matthews (41), from your biggest fan. I read something somewhere that said he stands 6'4". Can that be right? He never looks that tall onstage . . .

Anyway, on to the point of this blog entry.

NGU. My daughter wrote those letters for me on the back of my tank top when I ran (well, okay, let's be honest - ran and walked) the Disney Marathon back in 2004. For those who don't know what the acronym stands for, it's Never Give Up. It's true for running, but it's also true for writing. I have a little story to tell about one of my writing friends from Philly that proves the point.

I met Deb Kossmann back in 1999, shortly after I had moved to Philly and joined a writing group. Deb was another writer in our group. Fast forward to October 2007. I received an email from Deb in which she shared the good news that a humorous piece she'd submitted to a local memoir contest had won first place and would be published in Philly's City Paper. That news alone is enough to make a writer's day. No, her week. Her month. Her year.

But . . . it just so happened that one of the judges of the contest was the editor of the Modern Love column in the Style section of the New York Times. He loved the piece and wanted to publish a shorter version of it in the NYT. So she worked with him to edit it down, and the piece was published on October 28, 2007 (and she got paid for it, too!). Here's the link to Deb's article. It's hilarious and a great read.

Now, if getting published in the New York Times isn't a big enough feather in the cap, it gets even better. The very day it was published -- on a Sunday, no less -- she got a call from a literary agent who read the piece and was interested in representing her! After checking him out (with good results), she eventually signed on and now she's working on a book proposal.

Imagine that. She started with the sole intention of writing a piece to submit to a local contest, and next thing she knows, her piece is published in the NYT and she's got a contract with an agent.

Now, if you just heard this story without knowing anything else about Deb, you'd think -- lucky dog! But the point of this blog entry (in addition to linking everyone who reads this to her funny piece) is that all these good things didn't just fall into her lap. She's been writing for a long time -- at least as long as I've known her and, if I remember correctly, since she was very young (like most writers). And she's been submitting as long as I've known her, too. Sometimes getting acceptances and sometimes getting rejections. I haven't asked her outright, but I suspect, like most of us, she has received more rejections than acceptances. But she didn't give up. She didn't blame the publishing industry, she didn't blame editors, or agents, or anyone. She just kept writing because that's what writers do. They write. They work hard. And sometimes -- there's never any guarantee -- that hard work pays off. So KUDOS to you, Deb! You deserve it.

In that same vein, I'd like to include something my new friend Joseph Hayes (the Burry Man) wrote in his blog (thanks for the reprint permission, Joseph!):

There are five levels of writing, as there are in grief:

People who know the language (they can speak and read) think they can write;
People who think they are writers believe they will be discovered;
People who aren't discovered blame editors, publishers and readers;
People who realize that writing is hard discover whether they are actually writers;
People who actually are writers, write.

'Nuff said. Happy New Year! To the writers out there, keep writing!

TELL NO LIES to be published in Spain

A little update to my last post: I got the good news last month (I've just been derelict in my blogging) that the Spanish book club Circulo de Lectores (part of the Random House Mondadori group) has acquired rights to publish and translate Tell No Lies in Spain.

I had two years of Spanish many, many years ago, so maybe I'll be able to read and actually understand at least some of what I wrote. ;-)