By Alexa Padgett
First, I want to mention a publishing truism. That’s how much I learn from my peers. I’m part of a contemporary romance boxed set that launches December 5. In the past month, I’ve learned of about 60 new Facebook groups. I’ve learned what PA’s do for some others and why others retain a PR firm. I’ve learned more about early-bird incentives and how (better) to use Bookbub ads—still not a pro at this! In this, The Author Lab, I learn more about the European market and sensibility. I learn about craft in the form of fine prose and genre-specific word-choice.
All in all, I’m a much better writer thanks to my collaborations. I’ve learned to say it well—or at least better than I used to. So, I wanted to be sure to say thank you.
The past two weeks have been humbling and affirming. That’s the reality of publishing: I never know what’ll come at me next. Best case scenario is I pivot quickly so that I don’t absorb the whole blow…or so I can bask in the sunshine. At least that’s true if I say it well.
A little background moment. I’m married to an amazing illustrator. For the past…oh…fifteen years we’ve talked about how cool it would be to write children’s books. And it is delightful to collaborate with him. I enjoy that process much more because the entire project is ours—and we can talk about it as we walk our dog in the evening. We finally finished a dummy, got ourselves an agent and even have interest from a publisher…in the form of an R&R (that’s revise and resubmit). Still…pretty cool. We did and now we await the editorial team’s final verdict. In the process, my husband asked one of his former teaching colleagues for a peer review, which we will get this week as well. So, this week could be totally amazing or another disappointment. But this part is not in our control, so we must hope we said what we needed with eloquence and daring. Anything less isn’t enough.
At the beginning of last week, I was approached by a small press that wanted to buy some of my digital rights. After a lengthy back-and-forth, the editorial assistant asked if the series was complete. It’s not, so they don’t want to buy the rights yet. Again, not a bad thing—hey, they approached me!—but it was sad to watch a potential deal fizzle.
And now to my all-good news: I won an Honorable Mention in General Romance award from Reader’s Favorite. Nothing like having bloggers and industry professionals choose my work out of the thousands of international applications.
This last item, this ego-stroke as some call it, is what helps soothe the sting of the other less-than-perfect scenarios that most writers stumble across during their careers. I said something well—well enough for others to take note.
No, nothing about my journey has been smooth or even easy, but it’s mine and I’ve learned so much thanks to my fellow collaborators and writing friends. That’s what I’m trying to remember: writing is a journey with pitfalls and dead ends, frustratingly unworkable characters and not enough time to type out the scene in my head that JUST WON’T GO AWAY. But you know what? I’m going to write anyway. It’s a passion, maybe even an obsession that I’m so glad to share with all of you. As Earnest Hemmingway once wrote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I do. I bleed into my keyboard. Sometimes I cry, too. Yes, there’s another quote about that, but it’s not the point I’m trying to make today.
Each time I open a file or read a book or blog post (like the awesome ones here!), I grow as a writer. But, as importantly—maybe even more importantly—I grow as a human. I wrestle with trying to understand the chaos in my own small life, let alone the larger world within which my work rests. Which is why Anaïs Nin stated the essence of why I write so beautifully: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
I do, and the retrospection helps clarify future paths.
But, perhaps, the most important words to live by are those of Sylvia Plath, who wrote, “let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.”
I hope I do. I plan to keep trying.