This is a really exciting week for me. For one, I am currently on my way to Moab, Utah (where I grew up) to spend Christmas with my family—my first Christmas in Moab in eighteen years.
I almost feel like a kid again!
I have images of sledding in the La Sal Mountains zooming through my brain and am recalling the ecstatic feelings I had the few times that I woke up to a white Christmas. I’m heading back to the place where Santa was real and I couldn’t sleep on December 24th because OMG presents! For a nostalgic sucker like me, this trip is heaven.
The other reason I’m bouncing around in my seat is that on Monday, Kirkus released their list of the Best Indie Books of 2016, and by some one in a thousand chance, The Soul Mender made the list with nine others under the Best Debut Indie Novels. Needless to say I am on cloud nine. I couldn’t have asked for a greater Christmas gift than the knowledge that someone out there not only likes my book, but also thinks it has merit.
It is one of the most terrifying things to release something that you have poured your heart and soul into to be judged by the public. You sort of hold your breath and close your eyes like you are watching a gory scene in a horror movie, desperately waiting for it to end. And then when people don’t hate your book (some will, and that’s okay. I don’t like every book I read and I certainly don’t love them all.), then you can slowly lower your hands and let your heart stop thumping. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s real! And when someone like Kirkus puts it on their “Best of” list, then you can even start smiling.
When I first told people that I was writing a book I got a lot of vacant stares and “oh, that’s cute” looks. And I get it. When someone tells me they want to go to the moon I often give them the same expression. But I knew this was a dream I wanted, and I, with the support of my amazing husband, was willing to sacrifice financially and in many other ways to reach my moon.
It took nearly four years to write, edit, query, get rejected, cry, reedit, cry, and get rejected again (42 times to be exact), before I finally found someone who believed in my story. By that point, writing had become a full time affair for me, and I spent four years working for free because despite the multitude of people telling me “no,” I still believed in my story, as did a few important others.
I’m not writing this to whine or throw a pity party for myself. Quite the opposite. I wanted to share some of my journey because I know there are other writers out there who might be in the second or third year of rejections, and I wanted them to know that it is important to keep pushing. And even if you aren’t a writer, but maybe an athlete, or a singer, or a student in medical school, and you feel like maybe you can’t do this—I want you to know that four years later I did it, and one of the top book critics in the world told me I was good. I’ve seen a cartoon where a miner in a tunnel turns around and gives up inches from uncovering a diamond. I felt like that guy many times over the past four years, but with the encouragement of those around me, I kept scratching away at the rock.
And I want to encourage anyone out there pursuing a pipe dream that those four years of rejections, crying, scratching away at the rock, and reediting are the most important part of the journey. Every “no” pushes you to be a little bit better. Every meltdown forces you to become a little bit stronger. And every small victory teaches you to embrace the little things and fight harder for the big wins.
In June I launched my first book, The Soul Mender. In December it was selected for Kirkus’s Best Books of 2016. And in January I will release my second book. I am by no means the #1 New York Times Bestseller. I am not at the top of your book club reading list. Oprah is not singing my praises to the masses. But my journey isn’t finished—not even close. My four years are morphing into five. This “Best of” is my first “big win,” and it is more than I could have imagined at this stage in my writing career.
This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I couldn’t have done it alone. So many people have helped me along the way, and while this “Best of 2016” honor was awarded to me, I want all of those who have helped out to accept a piece of this honor as well. I did it. We did it. And we will continue to do it because this is just the beginning for Team Soul Mender, and just the tip of the iceberg for what I hope will be a fabulous ride of a writing career for me.
Happy Holidays to all. Merry Christmas. And best of luck to all of those out there fighting for a dream. Just don’t ever stop.