Today, I am so excited to bring you a special guest post from my pub sister, Heather L. Reid. Her YA debut, Pretty Dark Nothing, is out now! Heather joined me today to talk about her long, winding road to publication. She’s proof that perseverance pays off!
My Journey To Publication
“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”
Am I Really Going to Be a Published Author?
Yes, I really am.
Like the Woodrow Wilson quote, I have nourished and protected this dream, nursed it through bad days and after 26 years of dreaming, it’s finally come true. The dream sparked to life when I was ten. I was sitting in my 7th Grade English class. Instead of working on my spelling assignment like I was supposed to, I spent the class writing the first chapter of my first novel. I wanted to be a real writer with a real book on a real book store shelf. I imagined the smell of the freshly printed pages, and what it would feel like to hold my book in my hands. I wanted it. I spent months working and writing in my notepad. No, you can’t read it, I’ve buried the manuscript in the middle of the desert and it’s guarded by a three headed dingo. Yeah, it was that awful.
The years flew by. When you’re that young, it’s hard to hold onto a dream, hard not to get distracted. Life got in the way. So did middle school bullies, hormones, boys, and surviving high school. I channelled my angst in poetry and short stories that never saw the light of day. The idea of being a published writer became overshadowed by other goals. But no matter how much I pursued other things, writing never left my soul, it haunted me, tapped me on the shoulder every now and then to remind me that was my gift and I shouldn’t waste it.
At the age of twenty-one, I was working as a receptionist for an IT company, unhappy and lost in my life. A magazine had been left on my desk by my boss on her way into her office. Bored, I started flipping through it. I’ll never forget seeing that ad for The Institute of Children’s Literature. It spoke to me. It dared me to take a chance. I tore out the page and decided it was time to get serious. It was the first step to get myself back on the write path, of really learning the craft, learning discipline, connecting with other writers, and developing confidence so that I could achieve the goal I had set when I was a child.
That was nearly fifteen years ago. In that time I’ve written picture books, short stories, poetry, and magazine articles. Some came close to publication, but ultimately, none found a home. Then I had an idea for a YA paranormal novel which would become my debut, Pretty Dark Nothing. Writing a full length novel scared the crap out of me. I had never ventured to write anything that long before, but they story, the characters nagged at me, urged me to write. Something clicked. I knew I had finally found my voice. The words poured from me. Euphoric. I was in love with my characters. I worked hard for two years. I wrote draft after draft, polishing and working it until I thought it shined. Then I crossed my fingers and sent it out into the world. After several rejections, an editor with one of the big six asked for the full. I could hardly contain myself. This was it. It had to be. I waited nine months for a decision only to be disappointed when they ultimately passed.
I felt discouraged. I wanted to cry and scream in frustration. There had been days when I wanted to give up before, but this rejection hurt more than all the others put together. It took me awhile to pick myself up again. But I had a fire in my belly. I couldn’t let go of my dream. I started several other books, but none of them excited me as much as my first one. Pretty Dark Nothing wouldn’t let me go.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~Confucious
After three years resting in a virtual drawer, I took it out and started reworking it. It had potential, but I knew it could be better. I spent eight months rewriting the entire manuscript. I expected that rejections would come, just as they had before. And then something amazing happened.
On March 2nd 2012, all the dreaming, the rewrites, the determination paid off. I opened my e-mail to an offer. Pretty Dark Nothing, had sold in a two book deal. I couldn’t believe it. I read the e-mail over and over, pinching myself each time. Me? A two book deal? I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet. I thanked the ten year old me for setting that goal twenty-six years ago. Wow! That’s a long time to carry a dream with you. But I’m here to tell you that it can happen. If you’re willing to work at it, if you’ve got the vision, the passion, the fire in your soul for something, if you can’t imagine doing anything else in the world, your dream will come true. When you least expect it. When you feel like it’s never going to happen, just remember to pick yourself up, keep striving for your dream every single day, and don’t let anyone tell you you’ll never get there.
So in the words of Henry David Thoreau – ‘’Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
-Heather L. Reid, Author
YA Debut Novel Pretty Dark Nothing releasing April 23rd 2013 by Month 9 Books