Welcome to the first post of my new blog, and thank you for reading! I’m still getting the hang of this blogging thing, so please be patient as I figure out just what I’m doing here.
I recently read a great post on We Heart Writing by Emily Bleeker about being a secret writer. I can totally relate to this. I’ve been writing seriously for the past ten years, yet until recently, many of my closest friends had no idea the extent of my writing life. Over the past ten years I’ve written five novels, all of which are saved on my computer but not available anywhere else. When people occasionally would ask about my writing, I would inwardly cringe and reluctantly admit to having written several novels. Rather than pride, my first reaction was embarrassment. What’s wrong with me that despite the many many rejections I racked up from agents over the years, I’m still compelled to write stories? Not just short stories or tidbits from my life, but several hundred page novels with multiple narrators and a few plots going. What kind of masochistic urge drives me to carve out an hour here or there to keep writing?
I know I’m not alone in this, as many of the writers I know and admire are quietly toiling alone, some with dreams of publication, others with only a desire to see the stories in their minds take shape on the page. I recently “came out of the closet” as a writer. Signing with my agent Marlene Stringer in December somehow gave me permission to call myself a writer out loud, not just to other writer peers, but to colleagues, family members, and friends. Since then, I’ve slowly been telling more and more people about my writing. Part of it is the feeling of validation that comes with an expert in the business saying, “Yup, you’re a writer. Let’s see where we can go from here.” But a bigger part is the realization that if I have any hope in hell of making it in this business, being a secret writer will not do. If I’ve learned anything about the publishing business over the past few months, it’s that I’ll need to get really comfortable with self-promotion. For me, the first step of that is going “public” as a writer.
It’s been baby steps along the way. First, I told a few people I’d signed with an agent. The next step was creating a Facebook author page. I created a Twitter account (I still haven’t gotten the hang of this yet, so you won’t find much there), and then a website. Next up: this blog.
In June I got the amazing news that Lake Union Publishing will publish two of my novels. The Bloom Girls will come out in March, followed by Split in March 2018. As publication goes from being a distant dream to being a reality, I feel a little like I’m in one of those dreams where you look down and realize you’ve gone to school naked. You show up in gym class and suddenly notice you don’t have a stitch on. Except in my case, I have warning that it’s about to happen. Other people will be reading my work. Gulp. While this is the dream and the goal, it’s also a little scary for someone who’s been a secret writer for so long, sharing chapters here and there with writing and critique groups only.
When no one is reading your writing, you can do whatever you want. That character who sounds a little like your uncle/friend/colleague—who cares? No one will ever know. Now I find myself mentally raking through each paragraph in my forthcoming books and second-guessing every word. Did I say anything embarrassing? Incriminating—of myself or others? Will people realize it’s fiction? Will they hate it? Will there be bad reviews? Will there be any reviews?
There are eight months before my first book comes out, eight months to take a few steps forward and to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because this is the reality of having a dream come true. I can continue to write for nobody or I can shut the door of the closet and step outside.
I’m about to go to gym class naked. People might laugh and point, and I’m going to want to cover myself with a bathrobe, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll swallow my pride, hold my head high, and go play kickball in my birthday suit.