Never give up… This is the advice writers hear over and over again. We are tempted so often to despair, in a life where rejection letters, or these days silences – simply being ignored – are more common than acceptances. So I’m here to say, really, never give up – if there was any option, that is, for so many of us don’t take easily to a life without writing. What else would we do? What else is so all-consuming, so thrilling when you are doing it, so fascinating to think about in the small hours of the night? Worrying about our families? Getting up to clean the kitchen?
I’m writing this on a rainy Sunday in Key West because this summer my agent placed two of my novels with a publisher, and life changed once again, dramatically, for the better. (Yes, we all get good at putting a brave face on it, we look for the kind words, even the regret, in the publishers’ rejections – or of course, we can grit our teeth and publish the book ourselves, successfully, and many do.) I and many mid-list authors have been struggling with all of the above for longer than I would like to admit. Whatever one’s publishing history looks like, and I know mine looks prolific, there are always the books, often the ones we care about most, that don’t make it. THE LOST LOVE LETTERS OF HENRI FOURNIER was, I thought, one such book. I’ve been obsessed with it. I’ve been writing and rewriting it since 2011. I was getting ready to say a sad goodbye; but my agent wouldn’t give up on it, and one late night in Europe I had the conversation with her that we authors fantasize about having. It was nearly midnight – she was in California – and she was on the phone telling me she had got me a two-book deal. What? Two! I had to get her to repeat everything. I could not believe this was happening. PARIS STILL LIFE is a book I wrote to cheer myself up for the other one, long, complicated, historical, not getting anywhere. My new editor at Lake Union loves it, said my agent. In fact, she loves both. I couldn’t sleep that night, and since I was alone there was nobody to carouse with. But now I’d like to carouse with all the other writers out there who may have been going through similar gloom/despair/resignation about never finding a publisher. I just want to say, it happens! Sometimes it happens when you least expect it. Sometimes it happens when you are just about ready to give up on that novel, and put it away. Sometimes the right person reads it – you only need one – and says yes!
So, really, I mean it, never give up.