The Benefits of Not Giving Up

SOPHIE'S SQUASH When I was small, I hung out in my library’s children’s section, reading picture book after picture book. Then, I’d go to the card catalog – remember that? – and flip to where my name would be if I had written a book.

As I grew older, I branched out and read all kinds of books. But, I kept reading picture books, hoping I’d write one someday.

I wrote my first picture book draft in college. My family liked it. But, I didn’t know what to do next. I sent it to one publisher, chosen at random, got a rejection and didn’t try again.

So, I wrote in other ways. As a newspaper reporter. A magazine editor. A public relations employee. And, I was always reading to myself or my daughters.

As my 40th birthday neared, I was happy. I had a family I loved. A job I enjoyed. Good health. But, I finally acknowledged the truth. If I didn’t try – really try – to publish a book, I would regret it.

I also realized something obvious. To publish a book, I had to write one first.

So, I got busy. I stopped watching TV and wrote every night when my kids were asleep. I read more books, focusing on how they were structured and what made them work. I spent weekends reading everything my favorite authors had ever written.

I joined critique groups to get feedback and attended conferences where my work was evaluated. And, finally, I learned to properly submit work to publishers.

When I thought I knew enough and was good enough, I sent stories for consideration. I quickly found I wasn’t ready. Even though I’d been paid to write for much of my adult life, I got form rejection after form rejection.

I didn’t give up.

I kept writing and reading and learning. Almost every moment I wasn’t working or parenting or sleeping, I was trying to be a better children’s writer.

I began seeing hopeful signs. Notes written by real editors scrawled on a form rejection. “Cute, but not for us.” “I’d be happy to see more of your work.”

But, still, always a “no.”

I didn’t give up.

I revised existing stories. I wrote new ones. I listened to published authors speak and took copious notes. I improved my stories and sent them to more publishers.

And, got more rejections – 126 in all.

Then, one day, my phone rang. The caller ID said, “Random House.” The voice on the other end said, “Pat? This is Anne Schwartz from Schwartz & Wade.”

It was the moment I’d imagined. Anne wanted to publish my picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH.

From there, things took off. I got a literary agent. She helped me sell three more books in fairly short order. SOPHIE came out to positive reviews and more acclaim than I ever could have imagined.

Now, I have a family I love, a job I enjoy and something I’ve wanted since I was small – a picture book with my name on it.

Card catalogs have gone away, it’s true. But, seeing SOPHIE’S SQUASH listed online is equally satisfying.

And, who knows? Maybe somewhere, someday, a child will read my book and think, “Hey! I could write one of these.”

Dream Big Series at DreamBank - MadisonEditor’s note: Meet Pat and hear her story at an exclusive DreamBank – Madison event Thursday, Oct. 10, from 6:30-7:30 p.m.  RSVP early to receive a free copy of her book, Sophie’s Squash, and secure your seat for this inspiring evening at American Family's DreamBank in downtown Madison, Wis.

by Pat Zietlow Miller on Fri, Sep 06 2013 11:38 am
Posted by Pat Zietlow Miller on Fri, Sep 06 2013 11:38 am


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