Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Level Head

I have to thank my mother. I will never, no matter if I rocket to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, get a big head.

She is a wacky lady who frustrates and challenges me in turns, sometimes without even trying.

On the subject of my writing, she generally frustrates me. As a kid, she would ground me from books. I would sneak them. It was my candy. If it came to 'those made up stories,' she wasn't the mother who sat for hours listening to my painstaking efforts at character creation. She was the one saying, "Go outside. Breathe air. Run or something." I snuck writing, too. I was 'writing a report' and would have my social studies book open and hope she did not see the header on the page was 'chapter three.'

As an adult, she would occasionally make weird demands. "If you are going to write, why not write a nice dragon story. Those seem to do well." Blink. Okay. A nice dragon story. About???

Well. Okay. I will get on that.

Or, "Children's books do so well. And you draw. Just write a children's book."

Like I had picture books just rolling around in my head waiting for escape. Nope. Not the way my head space is filled. It is made of darker stuff than that.

But sometimes, she would say something really interesting. Like, "Why do you bother writing all that if no one will ever read it?"

For pleasure. Because I have to. Because the stories are there whether I note them on paper or not.

"So why aren't you selling them?"

Because publishers aren't going door to door looking for them? Because I am a single mother of three kids and who has the time for that? Because (honestly) they may reject my work, therefore making my joy seem stupid and worthless?

"Well, you are writing it all anyway... they aren't going to say yes if you don't ask."

Okay, mom. So I started sending out query letters. Because research suggested that was the next step. Research did not say 'this is how you write one.' That was more of a trial and error process. One notable one was sent to the wrong name. I still feel bad about that one.

People did reject me. It became a second hobby. Create query. Send query. Smile in amusement at the neat letters I got back.

But someone didn't. Someone asked to read more. Finally, someone asked to read the whole manuscript.

When I got offered my first contract, after shock wore off, I was a bubbling, crying, squealing mess of hysteria. I called Mom. "Well, wasn't that the point of all this?" Um. Yeah. "Well then, why are you surprised?"

I sniffled. Well, she was right.

I decided it was a good idea to respond to the email.

Just like that, I was an author. Mom was right and I dedicated the first one to her. Because of her asking, "Why not?"

So, now, here I am and I called her today to read her my most recent reviews. First she asked about edits. "Still? You spend a lot of time doing that." Yes, I do. But the book is better than ever and... "Well, I should hope so. It is all you eat and sleep."

Mom, I got reviewed. "Is that good?" I answered that it was. I read her the reviews. I asked if she could believe people liked it? Wasn't that awesome?

"What did you expect?"

Again, logical. I guess I should expect good things. It is a lesson, even if she doesn't always mean it to be. Expect good things. Try, because if you don't, you failed already. If you work hard, expect results.

All logical lessons delivered with a mother's frustration to a daughter who looks at her and thinks for someone who will never read my work (because it is too long for all that sitting around just reading when there is work to be done) she sure can be wise sometimes.

Love you, Ma

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