This July has become the month between. The month between two book publishing dates, the month between the start of a new series and the end of another, and the month between turning in my last contracted manuscript and possibly starting something new.
In the spring of 2018, I told my literary agent I was done. I’ve always written, from stories about cats and bunnies in elementary school to angsty poems and song lyrics in my teen years to a manuscript that became my therapy in my forties. Writing keeps me mentally and emotionally healthy. But in 2018, the merry-go-round of writing, querying, writing, submitting, revising, resubmitting, writing, submitting, waiting, hoping, hoping, hoping… it all piled up and killed my love of writing.
My agent Fran says she remembers sitting outside her apartment on the phone with me when I told her. I think I knew she wouldn’t believe me, so I came armed and prepared and thanked her for all of her amazing-ness, because Fran is that—an amazing agent—and then added that I wanted her to take me off her website. “If I ever write again, I promise I’ll reach out. I’d never work with anyone else. But I’m done,” I said. Then she believed me.
A few months went by. Fran called. She understood I couldn’t write anymore, but she had an idea. Hallmark had just started a publishing arm. Why not come up with a proposal and send it in? I had nothing to lose. I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, and it wasn’t like actually writing a story. Just five pages. Then I’d go back to my new, non-writing life, which was so busy at that time that I didn’t much miss putting words on a page yet. I wrote the proposal and waited. Hallmark liked bits and pieces of it, but not most of it, so I tried again and waited.
I took my daughter to NYC for her high school graduation gift, and we had the best time. In three days we saw two plays, got tattoos, ran around Manhattan, and spent very little time sleeping. I thought about my five-page package of likely futile effort in Hallmark’s hands but tried not to. We didn’t arrange to stop and say hello to Fran. She was busy, and I was still very certain I’d put my hopeful writing dream away in a locked and dead-bolted little room in my head.
A week after we came home, Fran informed me that Hallmark liked my proposal. Stacey Donovan, Hallmark’s editorial director, planned to call me. Daunting, but I was sure it wouldn't lead to anything. Stacey called, and I was stunned to find how easily we chatted about my potential fictional town and characters and story. I agreed to rework the proposal again. My ingrained hope broke through and tried to rear it’s unwanted head, and I shoved it back into its room, bolted the door, and added a padlock.
After Stacey changed my life by telling me that Hallmark wanted the story, I learned that imposter syndrome isn’t just a funny-sounding thing writers joke about. Because, why me? Why would Hallmark want to publish my story, after I’d tried and failed at the writing thing for too many years? I second guessed every scene, every bit of dialogue, every single word I wrote.
When I turned in the manuscript, I held my breath. I was positive—I mean, positive—an email would come any day telling me that it wasn’t good. They’d made a mistake, I wasn't capable, and it wouldn’t be published. And I’d go back to my non-writing life and try to figure out how to be mentally and emotionally healthy without needing to write. That didn’t happen.
I wrote and released the second book for Hallmark, and that was a little easier. Fran and I crafted a proposal to send to Crooked Lane Books for a new story with series potential. Again, imposter syndrome appeared. So when Faith Black Ross was interested, I had another is this real life moment.
Now, I’m a month past the release of my third published book and a month away from my fourth. I’m awed by authors who strive to keep going, whatever their reasons. I feel that I’m still at the beginning of my journey; I hope I am. Like most writers, I celebrate triumph built upon the rubble of defeat. Like most writers, I have a few “in the drawer,” manuscripts that for one reason or another didn’t make it into the world. I’m not sure yet of their fate—they may be cherry-picked for future stories, be reworked, or die in the drawer. And like most writers, I have one “out on sub,” a manuscript on submission, a neatly presented package with my heart, my guts, love and anger and hope and fear in 90,000 words. Because this is what most writers write, no matter what the words look like on the page.
Which is almost enough to make me stuff my cynical, hopeful optimism back into that dead-bolted, padlocked little room and walk away. But this time, I’ll try not to. I’m working on being braver. Even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard. I’m getting better at living in the moment. Accepting that I should be here. I’m really good at appreciating what I have. As much as I love words, I don’t have the right ones to fully express how grateful I am to be in this place, in the month between two book releases. I am grateful. I don’t know how many more there will be or what’s ahead. But this is one hell of a journey. xo