Finding a Sense of Gratitude
In this, the first week of 2018, I find myself not in the position I thought I would be. 2017 was my year! I took writing classes galore. I made it into #PitchWars. I connected with writers and readers and industry insiders across the world. In other words, I did what I thought were all the right things to guarantee I would start 2018 as an agented (finally!!) author.
Where am I, sitting here typing this in the frigid beginning to 2018? Same place I was 365 days ago. Unagented, full of ideas, topped off with a heavy dose of self-doubt.
I didn’t get an agent, and in some ways, it feels like I let myself and my manuscript down. Did I not work hard enough? Did I not connect with the right people? Take the right classes? Show my words to exactly the right person? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. I know that I worked hard, harder than some, less than others, I’m sure. There isn’t exactly a secret formula to getting agented. Wouldn’t that be grand?
I’ve lost myself in this sense of failure. As if getting an agent will somehow prove “I’ve made it.”
ANYONE in publishing knows that having an agent isn’t like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.
You still have more rejection to face. This time in the form of editors and publishing houses. I’ve realized, somewhere in the dark abyss of my rejection, that no amount of success will make me feel fulfilled. I will always want the next thing. The next contract. The next “yes.”
This made me wonder, if I didn’t get my ultimate goal, what DID I get? The answer was surprisingly fulfilling.
A writing community.
#PitchWars led me to a class of 182 other writers who have supported me relentlessly. They have answered my questions (no matter how repetitive, stupid, or obvious), critiqued my query, my opening page, my synopsis, and my Twitter pitches. They offered their shoulders when the agent round didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped, and their hands to lift me back up. We’ve commiserated, celebrated, and laughed together. I’ve never felt more like I belong.
Not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 mentors.
Through Author Accelerator I was coached by Jennie Nash (the Chief Creative Officer and owner of Author Accelerator), Lisa Cron (the author of Story Genius), Julie Artz (Book coach extraordinaire). And through #PitchWars, I was mentored by the wonderful and kind Katherine Fleet. From these amazing, smart ladies, I’ve learned what story means beyond the plot. I’ve learned revision processes and how to get inside a reader’s head. Similarly to #PitchWars, they’ve listened. They’ve given advice. My manuscript has flourished with their careful and thoughtful help.
From Author Accelerator to #PitchWars, I learned how to write a story that works. I know how to compose a compelling query, synopsis, and even pesky Twitter pitches. Even though I love my current manuscript, if it isn’t the one to get me an agent, it’ll be okay, because I know HOW to do it again. And again. And again.
A manuscript I love.
Seriously, guys. I love it. I can’t believe it came out of my brain. It was a lot of hard work, but this process has taught me so much about writing and who I am as a person. No other manuscript has affected me quite like this. (If you’re wondering, it’s about terminal illness, suicide, and finding the will to live.)
A desire to give back.
All I’ve ever wanted is to be a traditionally published author. Do you know how many writers out there want the exact same thing I do? Millions? Billions? The number is ginormous. Because of all the people who have given their time, their expertise, and their patience, I was and am inspired to give back. Maybe I can’t yet share my experience of being agented, but I can tell you what I know and if your story is working.
When I asked to take over All the Way YA in 2018, I didn’t know what to expect. The outpouring of love and support for this blog has been incredible.
That’s what the writing community does. We lift each other up. We give back.
Perhaps I haven’t reached my goal of finding an agent, but 2018 is a new year, and I’m bringing an arsenal of grateful experience. And when I look at it this way, not in terms of what I DIDN’T get, but what I DID, I feel awfully rich, indeed.
Kacey Vanderkarr writes about brave teenagers and unfortunate situations. Her short story, “Distraction,” is featured in NYC’s Subway Library and the inaugural issue of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. By day, Kacey is a sonographer, coffee addict, and proud member of SCBWI and the Flint Area Writers group. @kacimari