Debut Author Update – Encouragement

I confess I’m not much of a golfer. In fact, miniature golf is much more reflective of my skill level – and that’s only if we’re not keeping score. But, I admire those that can hit the links and make par. It takes lots of practice to do it. Thousands and thousands of hours actually, standing in scorching heat, blistering cold, and even a little rain, repetitiously hitting a small white ball just to get better at a simple game.

When I first attempted to learn the game of golf, I spent a lot of time at the driving range hitting golf balls by the bucket full. With each shot, I’d watch my ball slice far off target, dribble across the ground right in front of me, or even remain on the tee after I’d swung and missed. It was embarrassing and humbling, not to mention discouraging, especially after watching a pair of twelve-year olds a few spaces away hit perfect shot after perfect shot with ease.

In the face of such discouragement, cutting my losses and trying a simpler game like Yahtzee crossed my mind. However, what kept me going was that one good shot I made when I needed it most. Just when I was about to pack up my clubs and leave, I’d swing and hear that sweet ping! as my club struck the ball perfectly, my swing motion fluid for once, and watch my ball sail high into the air and in a straight line toward the pin. It was that one shot that told me I had the potential to be a better golfer, and it confirmed in me I indeed had what it took to play this game.

The same can be said of a debut author. We write, write, and write, only to see agents reject our material. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when we see other debut authors sign multi-book contracts and flood the front display rack at Barnes & Noble. But, every now and then a sign of encouragement comes our way.

Mine came last week. An agent from a Christian literary agency held an elevator pitch contest over the weekend. Authors were encouraged to send a 20-30 word summary of their novels, she would critique it, and then pick ten pitches that piqued her interest and request the first five pages of those manuscripts.

I submitted my pitch and she offered some advice to make it better. Based on others’ feedback on her blog, I didn’t think I wowed her. There were other pitches that were outstanding and so much better than mine. So, I was surprised and elated when she notified me that I had made her top ten and wanted to read the first five pages of Sunrise. It was the shot of encouragement I needed. Maybe I do have it in me after all.

Debut Author Update – Perseverance and Perspective

Rejection can be hard to take sometimes – especially if it comes on the heels of having invested a lot of time, energy, and resources on a project or an issue of personal meaning. My wife and I are huge fans of the reality cooking competition Top Chef, and I’m always struck by how hard the chefs take it when they are eliminated after creating a bad dish. Hey, it’s just a plate of food after all, so why be so upset and disappointed if a judge thought it had too much paprika?

Before I began my foray into the world of writing, I couldn’t quite relate to the losing chefs. Now, that’s changed. When you commit yourself to making or creating something, something that is yours and yours alone, it becomes so personal it’s practically an extension of yourself. Rejection of it can easily be interpreted as a rejection of the person behind it.

Let’s face it – nobody likes to swing and miss or come up empty. This week I’ve already endured rejection from some prospective literary agents. I’m disappointed to say the least. I’d done my homework on these agents. I knew their genres of interest, the material and authors they represented, their reputations with other authors, and I believed my manuscript aligned well with their preferences. Unfortunately, they didn’t feel the same. Now, I’m not going to weep, pack up my laptop, and sulk about it – although if this were reality TV I’d be tempted to do it just to whip up some fan support, but it did get me to thinking about two very important things: perseverance and perspective.

Recently, I read an interview with Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help. Ms. Stockett revealed that she’d endured more than 60 rejections over five years before an agent finally offered her representation. Now, that’s perseverance! In the face of constant rejection, she continued to labor and believe in her story. Goals aren’t achieved by quitting. They’re realized only by finishing the race and completing what we set out to do.

It’s also easy to throw in the towel if the odds are perceived to be insurmountable. Everyone else quit when they viewed Goliath as too big to kill. David charged ahead, viewing him too big to miss. A healthy perspective keeps our vision clear and puts things in their proper focus. The literary world may be pretty daunting and overwhelming, but it’s not too big that it doesn’t have room for me.