This past week, I have been incredibly lucky!
No, I didn’t go to the neighborhood convenience store, buy a scratch-off and strike it rich! No, I didn’t take the free bus to the local casino, slide my cash card, yank a one-armed-bandit and have cash come flooding out (or whatever they do these days). No, Ed McMahon (or whoever) did not come to my front door to announce that I had finally won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse ten gazillion dollar award. Lastly, I was not the one millionth customer at the Mall of America and awarded a thousand dollar gift card for every store there.
Nah, my luck was better than that, even!
I got a literary agent and I sold a story to CRICKET magazine!
Hmmm, a single, dying cricket chirping and a lone, laconically clapping person are pretty much all I hear out there. While the Earth has moved under my feet and those close to me are thrilled, the rest of the world goes on pretty much as it always has, waiting for its luck to turn.
In the Fall 2001 issue of The Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America [v35 #2, Whole No. 151, Fall 2001], multiple-genre author, Laura Resnick said, “...luck is very elusive—far too elusive to form the foundation of a career plan—and therefore mostly irrelevant in the overall scheme of a filthy pro’s life.” In the same article, Catherine Asaro adds, “I wouldn’t say luck played any part in my writing career. Persistence and hard work were the determining factors. I never gave up...”
I’d have to agree. I started my writing career in seventh grade right after I finished John Christopher’s THE WHITE MOUNTAINS trilogy. I began my own novel, called (strangely enough) THE WHITE VINES, and it was born from my adolescent mind as I looked out across seemingly endless fields of corn. Lost in the mists of time (or the bottom of an adolescent’s locker), that novel was the first manuscript in a long line of manuscripts that culminated in my YA contemporary novel called VICTORY OF FISTS. VOF finished in the top fifty of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and caught the interest of Red Fox Literary agent, Karen Grencik.
Total number of manuscript submissions prior to that? At least 800 (when I started keeping accurate records in 1990), most likely 1200. I would not call writing those 1200 manuscripts with pencil, pen, Underwood manual typewriter, second-hand Selectric, brand-new Word Processor, Apple IIe dot matrix printer, and all the others; over a span of 42 years...a stroke of “luck”. As Kevin J. Anderson noted in the same article, it might possibly be called “foolish stubbornness”.
Hot on the heels of connecting with Red Fox Literary, I got news yesterday that CRICKET magazine will publish another short story of mine called “The Penguin Whisperer”. That was after a 12-year hiatus from them with only a few minor sales in between. I don’t know what the future holds, but there’s a chance that I might become an “overnight sensation”!
As to that, literary highlight Edith Pearlman (BINOCULAR VISION (2012), numerous Pushcart and O. Henry Awards) quoted Danny Kaye in an interview in The Millions, “Did you ever hear Danny Kaye’s comment when he became a success and somebody said he was an overnight sensation? He responded, ‘Yes, after 20 years in the Borscht Belt.’ I’m not an overnight sensation, but at the moment I’m in demand. It won’t last forever, so I am responding to it.”
Last of all, I teach a week-long class for gifted and talented students called Writing To Get Published. In it, I point out that the only way to become a writer is if you write things and send them out. I also tell them – Thursday afternoon – that they will ALL be rejected! Quite a shock for people so young! I then parade notable authors like Dr. Seuss, JK Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Stephanie Meyer, Jack London, and George Lucas (all of whom suffered a large number of rejections before their most notable works were accepted) before them and point out that if these luminaries can be rejected; “Everyone in this room will be rejected as well!”
My lessons this week: Persist. Submit. Expect Rejection. Submit more.
Oh, yeah: and Celebrate Success!
Resource: http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/luck-myth, http://www.themillions.com/2012/04/overnight-sensation-edith-pearlman-on-fame-and-the-importance-of-short-fiction.html