Archives: publishing

I got a (paying) job!

I can’t wear slippers to my new job.

 

Six years ago I did what they tell you never to do. I quit my day job to pursue a dream.

The recession was in full swing. I had the barest beginnings of a novel, with no great vision other than that I wanted to write one. Ending a decades-long career in journalism and public-relations to try my hand at fiction required a crazy leap of faith. And it was the right decision.

I never would have finished The Leaving Year without that singular focus. Some writers can tap out their debut novels in stolen hours here and there. Karen Thompson Walker, a former book editor at Simon & Schuster, wrote The Age of Miracles in the mornings and during subway rides to work. That’s not me.

While I was able to write short stories around my day job, I couldn’t seem to make any headway on my first novel — maybe because I had no idea how to write a novel. I didn’t know about outlining or story structure or character arcs or what writing process would serve me best. Writing a novel was a vast undiscovered land, and exploring it required long, uninterrupted stretches of time. I’m talking years, not hours.

Thank you, Mark Funk, my hard-working, self-employed husband, for giving me that luxury of time. He paid the bills while I spent five years writing, researching, editing, rewriting, getting help, querying, building a platform, getting more help . . . and basically trial-and-erroring myself through the single hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Now that book is in the publishing pipeline (stay tuned), and I’ve started another, this time with some insight into what’s involved, insight that will hopefully make me more efficient.

(I look back on all the time wasted writing and rewriting my first paragraph and shudder. Truth be told, you lose respect for time when you have seemingly unlimited amounts of it. You lose respect, but you also feel guilty, particularly when someone else is picking up the tab.)

Mark was and continues to be supportive, but after five years, even he was growing weary of being the sole breadwinner. And I hated asking him for money every month to cover my credit-card bill (even though it was mostly for groceries). I wanted to help our household’s bottom line and contribute to the cost of my book.

Plus, I was craving more social stimulation. My life had started to feel too insular, which is great if you’re writing about hermits or castaways, not so great if you’re writing about humans in all their quirky complexities.

The time had come to get an outside, paying job, something part-time and not too awfully stressful that would allow me to continue to focus on my writing.

I admit I was more than a little afraid to get back out there. My fear of job interviews is second only to my fear of public speaking (read my last post), but I must have been feeling brave that day I asked about a “We’re Hiring!” sign I saw while shopping at my neighborhood drug store.

I happen to love this store, so the idea of working for the company appealed to me. I got home and immediately filled out the online application to be a cashier/clerk. Literally seconds after I clicked “submit” I got a call to come in for an interview. (For the record, I got through the interview just fine.)

I didn’t expect my new job to be that challenging even though my retail experience was more than 30 years old. I’d worked at the University of Washington Book Store while a student.

Hello! My first day of training — on-the-job with real live customers — left me three pounds lighter and brain-drained by all the stuff I had to process, including:

  • Routine cash, credit and debit sales
  • Personal checks
  • Coupons and sales
  • Gift card purchases
  • IDs for cigarettes and alcohol
  • Store codes
  • Photo orders
  • Answering the phone
  • Greeting customers

Once I started at my assigned store, I also had to learn how to stock and “face” shelves, which is more complicated than it sounds. Any there’s many more tasks that they haven’t had me do just yet.

Suffice to say, my head’s been too full to get much writing done, but I hope that will change once I get over the learning curve.  I like my bosses and co-workers. And the customers have been great, by and large. Some have already given me material for future stories.

My favorite so far is the young man, complaining of a birthday hangover, who bought a bottle of milk and a pain-reliever, opened both at my counter, asked me what dose to take, and then proceeded to wash the pills down with his drink. He left, leaving the box the pills came in as well as his receipt and 3 cents in change.

Yep, no shortage of inspiration here.

What about you? Have you ever quit your day job? Or re-entered the workforce after an absence? Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

The Waiting Game

528826835_69deb416db_o

I’ve written and rewritten my book.

I’ve given it to beta readers.

I’ve read it out loud to my family. 1

I’ve worked with three professional editors. 2

I’ve laid the foundation for my author platform.

I’ve researched publishing options, pitched agents and entered one fiction contest. 3

And now . . . I wait.

I don’t like to wait.

My lack of patience may have something to do with turning 57 and spending five years on my first book. I want to get it out there in the hands of readers — readers I don’t necessarily know.

But these things take time. Agents and small publishers are buried in queries from aspiring authors like me. I can expect to wait at least a month for a response, if I get any at all. If no one bites and I don’t win that contest (both likely), then I’ll send to another batch of agents/publishers/contests, and keep repeating the process until I hit gold or give up.

Securing an agent or even a publisher doesn’t guarantee success, of course. An agent has to be able to sell my book to a publisher, and a publisher has to be able to sell it to readers. (Actually, I will have to do much of my own book promotion, or hire a pro.)

That’s traditional publishing. I’m giving it two seasons. If I can’t interest anyone in my book by, say, Thanksgiving, I’ll likely pursue a hybrid option that’s a cross between self-publishing and traditional.

Given how hard it is to wait – I know I’m not alone in this – I thought it might be helpful to make a list of things to keep me busy while I do the equivalent of drum my fingers on the table. Those of you out there who have just “finished” a major, life-consuming project might find this list helpful as well.

To do:

  1. Get reacquainted with my husband, two sons and our dog. It’s not that I’ve been absent. I just haven’t been wholly present.
  2. Tidy up. The house has pockets of clutter that need clearing out, and I have hair that needs cutting or shaving. After a winter of editing, I look like a cavewoman.
  3. Read books that have absolutely nothing to do with the novel I just finished, starting with The Can’t-idates: Running For President When Nobody Knows Your Name, by my old college friend, Craig Tomashoff.
  4. Write short stuff. A short story or essay will feel like a sprint after the marathon of the novel.
  5. Train for another triathlon season. I’m one creaky, out-of-shape (and possibly typical) writer body right now.
  6. Eat less sugar. Some writers hit the bottle. I reach for the sweets. Dark chocolate is my favorite, but I’ve been known to eat stale Halloween candy in a pinch.
  7. Drink more water. Water is life.
  8. Step away from the computer and email. I. Must. Resist.
  9. Revamp my website and beef up my social-media presence to prepare for the eventual public launch of my novel. (This may make it hard to do No. 8.)
  10. Give back. I’ve been so fortunate to have the time and support to write my book. Now it’s time to pay it forward.
  11. Move on. The first book is done. It’s off to college, never to return, like my oldest son. . . . Oh, who am I kidding? It, like Casey, will be back with loads of dirty laundry and requests for cash. Even with a publishing deal, I’ll have to do more editing, spend more money, and promote, promote, promote. (I’ve heard that writing the book is the easy part.)
  12. Finish what Anne Lamott calls the child’s draft of NOVEL NUMBER TWO. Telling myself it can be horrendously bad will hopefully silence my inner critic, who has no business poking her nose into my creative process.

What about you? How do you play the waiting game?

 

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks

Notes:

  1. Yes, I did finish reading my book to my kids and husband, and the experience was invaluable both for the weaknesses it highlighted and the confidence it gave me (They liked it!).
  2. The three editors I hired were Lish McBride, for developmental editing, Martha Brockenbrough, for story synopsis/query help, and Emily Russin for copy editing.  Lish and Martha are both at Nothing to Novel. It was all money well-spent.
  3. My platform, so far, consists of an author website, this blog and pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I’ve researched traditional and indie publishing options, queried maybe 20 agents so far and have entered the Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest.