The Benefits of Not Giving Up
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.”
Editor’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.