In September 2007, Simmons writing instructor Jo Knowles told her class of new children’s lit grad students that it took about ten years to get published. Many authors find the same time frame applies to them. Sure, some get lucky, some have heartbreaking set backs, but for many, about ten years sounds right. Immediately, I made this my standard. The only question was when did my countdown clock start? For really, I’d been writing all my life. But it’d be unfair to my eleven-year-old self to think that her homage of Babysitter Club Super Specials would really propel her to a contract by the time she was legally able to toast to her success. I briefly considered using that fall as The Date, but that felt like cheating, somehow. It would help me slack off, not speed up. So I picked 2001.
Early in that junior year of high school, I submitted to my first ever contest – the USA Today magazine Sunday insert short story competition for teens. I didn’t win or place or even hear back. Later that summer, I finished an unpublished Mark Twain story for an Atlantic Monthly contest. In September of that year, I got a call that in a small way, changed my life. I had placed in the contest. The second best ending out of 98 entries. For the first time, my words were widely recognized and had made me a small sum of money. I was now officially serious. Every opportunity I had in college I attempted to write fiction for the next best thing – grades. I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. I decided to go to grad school purely for my craft. With a year under my belt, I sold two short pieces to Chicken Soup for the Soul editions in 2008. I was so giddy to see one volume in my neighborhood Barnes and Noble that I didn’t care I was in my slush gear and my hair was a mess. I texted my roommate out of the apartment cocoon to come take a picture of me and my words in a commercial store. But the elusive book deal still hung over my head. Three more years left.
Fall 2011. Ten years. I had three manuscripts finished and polished and a shiny new job at a place that could be a potential home for my religious writing – if they were doing YA. And they were actually just getting started. So by the end of my decade, I was finding that the Ten Years looks different to everyone. Sometimes it’s the time from the idea in the brain to the physical book in the hands. Sometimes it’s a constant flow of submissions and rewrites until a request for a full. And sometimes it’s the full amount of time to get the work done so that the eleventh year is when the everything happens.
That’s what’s happening with me. Pauline Books and Media has acquired The Ten Commandments of Gloria Jean ©, a YA novel about finding authentic self, faith, and love. It will be released August 2013.
Ten years. Jo was right. It has happened, is happening, and will happen. Always persevere. Keep the faith. Go easy on yourself. Find a friend to walk the journey with you. I am so grateful to all of you who have walked with me these past ten years and know we’ll be together for the next ten.