It’s early February—we’ve had snow, but it has melted. Another cold snap is in the forecast. There’s been mud, too early for the spring thaw, but it has brought on the itch for flowers and green and warmth, none of which have arrived. For me, February is a month of patience (if I can find it) or frustration (if I can’t).
February is also a month that is a little bit late for giving a year-end update (bye, 2018!), but I hope you’ll bear with me anyway. Writing is often a slow task that seems to go nowhere. But a year of doing work slowly will still have markers of progress.
My biggest achievement of 2018: I finished my first novel.
Phew! That fact deserves its own line. And then a line of people cheering and toasting with champagne and me being hoisted onto shoulders. Not all of those things happened, but I fully celebrated the completion of the book. I’m still a little in awe of this—I wrote a novel!!
Then I promptly turned my attention to the next step: finding a literary agent. Publishing houses and editors are a small group of people with very specific interests and tastes. Literary agents have the important role of finding new writing and authors they love and helping that work find a home in the publishing landscape with the best possible partner. So I’ve been sending query letters to literary agents: emails about the novel I wrote, about who I am, and why I think we’d work well together. Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find someone who loves my book as much as I do and has a good sense where it might fit in the publishing market.
Since I finished the novel, I’ve been researching the next book idea and have been following my muse as she’s given me other ideas. I’ve written a few creative nonfiction essays. I finished a new short story. I even wrote a few poems.
And all through 2018, I’ve been submitting stories and essays to literary magazines. I didn’t have much to show for this submitting other than a whopping 131 rejections (three of them had nice comments, though). Perhaps this is another reason this update is a little belated. Yeah, I finished the book, but then that turned into a pile of rejections from agents. Yeah, I’ve been writing short stories and essays, but that turned into an even bigger pile of rejections. Last year didn’t have much to show for all of that work.
And then in January: an acceptance.
That deserves it’s own line, too. I submitted an essay that I’d just finished, and it was accepted by the first place I sent it. I almost couldn’t wrap my brain around it. It was joy and surprise and excitement and validation and all the grief from all the rejections that happened to get me there.
Stay tuned: my essay will be published by The Threepenny Review later this year.
One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. The main character is in prison, and he writes one letter a week to the state for support to expand the library. After six years, they send him crates of secondhand books and records and a check for $200. Then they ask him to please stop sending letters.
He looks up, a half-smile on his face, and says, “Now I’ll write two letters a week.”
2019 is the year of “two letters a week.” A year where I’ll keep sending out my stories and essays, trusting that the next acceptance will come. Where I will seek to find a great literary agent to represent my novel. Where I’ll follow the next novel idea, the next story idea, the next poem.
It’s February. The journey starts again, as it always does, and it continues. It starts wherever I am.