Hangin’ @ the A&P / @LaurelHouck

Give me YA any day—although I cross all lines of genre, age, and interest. After more years than I care to reveal, my prolific endeavors may—let me repeat that—may be on the way to success. If adversity teaches us to grow, I should be ten feet tall by now. Instead of five feet two inches. But enough about me.

Growing up, we had this grocery store chain, the A&P. Never did know what those initials meant. Artichokes & Plums? Anchovies & Persimmons? Whatever. At this point I’m going for Angst & Perseverance, the words that characterize my publishing journey.

The day I got my (first) agent, I celebrated. Called everyone, changed my Facebook status, knew that success was a mere signature on the virtual line away. Instead: Agent #1 got fired. Agent #2 became ill. Agent #3 also got fired. Agent #4 took a non-agent job.

Which means at present I am swimming in the slush pool once again. Is this a sign? It is time to simply write for my own pleasure? That’s the angst whispering into my ear. While perseverance shouts at me to keep going.

Even beyond my agent issues, there have been publishing potholes big enough to swallow more than one manuscript. Yes, I have persevered…only to run into that blasted angst over and over again.

I started with a slew of rejections. There were the bad ones: no answer or, “Dear Author.” The good ones: great story but not right for my list. And my favorite response for Mystery at Bikers’ Rest: “The mystery distracted me from the story.” Huh?

Then, success! My initial sale, a trilogy no less, got a great editor. We completed work on the first book. I drank a Corona with lime and chose a killer dress for my book launch party. At this point the publisher’s parent company had industry-related problems; nothing personal. Except that several projects got cancelled. Including mine. Angst, anyone?

Then I co-authored a series, and we sold it. First edits were finished. And the publishers decided their vision of my character was better than mine. A double helping of angst, hold the whipped cream and cherry.

Perseverance kicked in. The book sold to another publisher. It should come out this year. And my trilogy is back on the market. (Feel free to contact me, all you hungry publishers out there.)

So here I am. Several projects are submitted. I have a huge backlog of work and an almost-completed historical fiction YA. Plus sparks flying in my brain for the next project. That’s the good news. But I have no agent, no editor, and no real clue what comes next. Angst-ville.

And that is exactly where writers are at their best. Without problems, we really don’t learn much. I now understand contracts, fine print, trust, and industry standards. Good stuff.

I’ve also harnessed the feelings associated with each rebuff. My work-in-progress protagonist displays deep anxiety and dread, aka angst. I know how it feels, and I’m able to show it. Rejection? Check. Betrayal? Check. Happenstance? Check. The negatives become positives as I use them to mine the depths of my characters’ psyches. Which makes me a better writer, and (hopefully) attracts the agents and publishers I need.

The same is true for perseverance. Every book involves at least one major conflict and several minor ones. If the characters folded at the first sign of a challenge, the book would end by paragraph two. When I soldier on in spite of delays and lack of immediate success, I am able to create characters that have the same ability.

Do I enjoy the angst inherent in getting published? Nope. Do I long to persevere in the face of adversity? No way. Am I willing to accept whatever comes with the business of writing? Oh, yes. Because I will write, published or not. I would just prefer to get my file cabinet full of manuscripts into the hands of readers. They’re the ones who really count.

And they, too, can learn from my process.

The A&P grocery is gone from our community. The memory lives on. And just maybe, instead of pushing my cart down the aisle marked Angst & Perseverance, I will set my sights on Acceptance & Promise.

And when you see my name on a shelf at the bookstore, know that I’m hoisting a Corona—with double lime.

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