I have a good friend who’s really down today because her wonderful fantasy novel keeps getting rejected. It’s hard to feel TOO sorry for her when she’s getting such nice rejection letters…the editors all have a lot of positive things to say about her manuscript (which she glosses right over), but there’s always some reason they ultimately can’t take it to committee. It’s also hard to feel sorry for her because she’s only had 5-6 rejections on it (none of them form rejections, BTW), and I KNOW IT’S GOING TO GET PUBLISHED EVENTUALLY!!!

But it’s not my manuscript. And MY telling her it’s going to get published eventually sounds hollow, I know. I don’t know anybody who tries harder than she does. And she IS published. She’s published a novel and several picture books, a couple of which have gotten some really great reviews and are selling well! But yet she said today, “I’m a fraud. I can’t write a good, publishable novel.” She’s NOT a fraud. She CAN write a good, publishable novel. She’s done it several times before. AND…she leads novel writing retreats all over the country, and teaches other people how to write good, publishable novels.

But I know how she feels. And I’m guessing anyone who’s reading this post knows how she feels, too. It’s HARD to be a writer sometimes. I tell kids all the time, “anyone can be a writer…you just have to want it badly enough to stick with it through the hard times.” I honestly believe that.

Sometimes *I* feel like a fraud because I haven’t published a book with a major New York publisher. Nevermind there are many days I wonder if I really want to publish with a New York publisher. I like my small publishers…they take very good care of me. But there’s this nagging little voice inside me that tells me I really haven’t “made it” until a New York publisher wants to publish my work.

And then there’s the agent thing. I’ve sold 16 books of my own (soon to be 19…I have 3 contracts pending right now)…actually, I’ve sold 26+ if you count work-for-hire/series books…but I can’t seem to interest an agent. Not that I’m trying all that hard…I tend to query 2-4 agents in a given year. And again, there are a lot of days I’m not so sure I want/need an agent. But on the days I DO want an agent…and I actually do some research and I think I’ve found one who would be perfect for me, they’re never interested. Why is that? Am *I* a fraud?

Are there any writers out there who DON’T feel like they’re a fraud at some point? Are there any PEOPLE out there who don’t feel like they’re a fraud at some point? Whenever I feel too sorry for myself, I think of all the people I know who are just working a job, counting down until the weekend…I’d take my life over theirs any day. At least I’m doing something I love…

When writers get down…

33 thoughts on “When writers get down…

  • August 22, 2006 at 8:21 pm
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    Hey, Dori. I think this is very, very common. When E.B. White accepted the National Medal for Literature, he said, “A writer’s courage can easily fail him. I feel this daily.”

    DAILY.

    The bottom line is, if you write, you’re a writer. I know that’s simplistic. And I know it’s easier to be on the outside, saying, “Yes, you’ll get published,” than it is to believe it during those inevitable hard times.

    And I have to laugh. There’s always someone “ahead” of you on the path (and sometimes that path loops around and back a few times.) I remember when I used to agonize that I would never get published in the magazines that eventually published my work. Now I dream of publishing a novel. But you’ve done that and you get the agent bug sometimes…and even your friend, with all her amazing success, has down days. These are normal. And I agree: The difference between those who eventually meet their goals and those who don’t is most often perseverance: working diligently on craft and not ever giving up.

    I also had to laugh when you said you have a job that you love. For some reason, when I’m down, I always compare mine to working at a meatpacking plant kill floor. I think that’s about the worst job anyone could have, especially in the summer. Thanks for the post. Will I see you in October? šŸ™‚

    Reply
    • August 23, 2006 at 1:06 pm
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      Oh yeah….DAILY rejection letters would be preferable to working on a meatpacking floor!

      Yeah, I’ll be there in October…you, too? Great! I hope we get a change to talk YA!

      Reply
  • August 22, 2006 at 8:59 pm
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    *stands up*
    Hi,my name is Liz, and I’m a total fraud.
    *Whew!* I feelmuch better now.
    *sits backdown*

    Someday I’ll get an actual book actually published.
    Someday…

    Reply
  • August 22, 2006 at 9:13 pm
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    Oh, yeah. I’m a total fraud for many reasons, which I won’t clog your LJ with.

    And I’m pretty sure I know who your friend is, and she’s definitely not a fraud. But if E.B. White felt it, then I understand why she does, too. šŸ™

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    • August 23, 2006 at 12:48 pm
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      Yeah, I think you probably know who she is, too. She’s had so much success herself (which she ignores) and spends so much time nurturing other writers that it always seems strange to me when she feels this way herself. But everybody does…

      Reply
  • August 22, 2006 at 11:52 pm
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    What makes it harder to sell after you’ve been published is that your new publisher wants to know your sales figures. I had this asked recently and I’m really not sure of my number although THE SEER seems to be selling well.

    I’ve had the agent problem, too, but am still trying. I have queries with two agencies right now and feel I’m closer this time, that one of them might sign me up. I keep hoping for that phone call anyway (g).

    Good luck to your friend…and to you!

    Reply
  • August 22, 2006 at 11:59 pm
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    I think all writers feel like frauds sometimes. It’s the nature of the beast. Plus we work in solitary confinement… and mostly like it that way.

    Would your friend like to contact me? Maybe I could put her in touch with my agent, who does sell fantasy.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2006 at 1:03 pm
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    Re: fraud?

    Ha! I just queried her on Friday. She’s my latest “seems perfect for me.” In fact, when I found out about her, I was actually a little disappointed I had a query out somewhere else (and that agent had specifically asked for an exclusive “just for 2 weeks”…until she got back from vacation and could have an agency meeting…but then it took two nudges 6 weeks later to get a form e-mail rejection).

    But anyway…a friend of mine LOVED having Megan as an editor (I love this friend’s work, so if Megan was her editor, she might be a good agent for me…), Megan obviously lived in Minnesota when she was an editor (as a native Minnesotan myself, that automatically earns her about 10 extra points), she graduated from the University of Iowa and I live in Iowa City (okay, offering that as proof she’s perfect for me might be stretching it a little…), and she’s with a smaller agency (even though I’ve also made a case for wanting an agent with a large agency, I think I’m really better suited to a smaller agency…as long as the agent still has all the contacts for selling sub-rights…).

    How long have you been waiting to hear?

    Reply
  • August 23, 2006 at 1:04 pm
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    Re: fraud?

    And yes, actually, my friend is submitting to the right houses…houses where she already has a contact, houses that publish her kind of book etc. I think that’s part of why she’s so frustrated. These are targeted submissions.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2006 at 7:41 pm
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    Yeah, I think we all do take our turns feeling like we’re fakes, someone will find us out eventually, and so on. I just keep reminding myself that most people do feel this way. And, well, I know all those other people are wrong–and I can’t quite get up enough ego to believe I’m the only one who’s right about my fake-ness after all–which means I must be wrong, too.

    I also know what you mean about wanting to shout at someone else who’s feeling fake “But you haven’t even been trying all that long yet!” I guess it always seems longer when we’re the ones doing the waiting than when someone else is …

    Reply
  • December 30, 2006 at 11:20 pm
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    Megan Atwood

    Does anyone out there know what’s happened to Megan Atwood at Firebrand? She asked for my teen novel back in late October. Never heard back from her. Checked the Firebrand website yesterday and she is no longer listed as one of their agents. Anyone have any information or ideas???

    Perplexed in Utah

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    • December 31, 2006 at 10:36 pm
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      Re: Megan Atwood

      Really??? She’s not listed at Firebrand anymore? I didn’t know that. Could you e-mail someone else there and ask? Seems like a fair thing to do given she requested your novel and now you don’t even know if she’s there anymore.

      I think it was October that I heard from her. It took a couple months, if I remember right.

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      • January 2, 2007 at 3:40 pm
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        Re: Megan Atwood

        Yes, as soon as I saw she was no longer on their site I emailed Nadia and asked about Megan’s status and if I should re-submit. Haven’t heard back from her yet, but it is the holidays.

        Reply
          • January 6, 2007 at 11:33 pm
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            Got an email “form letter” rejection from Nadia. No mention of Megan.

          • January 9, 2007 at 3:34 am
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            Sorry to hear about the rejection…I wonder what happened to Megan???

          • January 11, 2007 at 3:28 am
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            I don’t know and I wish I did! I wonder if she left to start her own agency or something….If you ever hear anything about her, please let me know.

          • January 14, 2007 at 9:37 pm
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            I asked a friend of mine who worked with her when she was an editor…the friend knew that Megan had left Firebrand, but doesn’t know where she went.

  • January 8, 2008 at 7:47 pm
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    Re: Megan Atwood

    I, too, am desperately seeking Megan Atwood. I sent her my middle-reader fantasy novel in 2004 and got a response in spring of 2005 that she loved it and wouldn’t change it, but that Llewellyn wasn’t taking middle-readers at that time. She suggested that I might want to grow the protagonist up. And I did. But 11 to 16 is a lot of growing up and the changes wreaked havoc (great havoc) on the plot. By the time it was ready, Megan had gone and Llewellyn doesn’t have a place for the kind of book the new book is. (I worked for a time with Andrew Karre who replaced Megan and was very helpful, but in the end said it wasn’t a good fit for them.) So, now I’m zeroing in on the agent search and if Megan is an agent somewhere, it might seem she’d be a good bet. Or at least know where the good bets might be. Anybody have any luck finding her? My protagonist will be 40 soon ….

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    • January 8, 2008 at 10:07 pm
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      Re: Megan Atwood

      It was a couple years ago that I queried Megan. Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened there…she either turned me down or I never heard from her (story of my life when I was seeking an agent). I have since signed with another agent.

      Good luck!

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      • January 8, 2008 at 10:53 pm
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        Re: Megan Atwood

        Thank you for responding. I realize now that the dates were 2006 and that was (duh) not last year, but the year before. Takes me awhile to catch up to a new year. Glad to hear that agents can be found! Joelle also gave me much the same answer. I appreciate it.

        Thanks again. I really stumbled upon this site just trying to track Megan down, but it seems like a good place for writers.

        Reply
        • January 9, 2008 at 8:18 pm
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          Re: Megan Atwood

          It takes me a while to catch up to a new year, too!

          Good luck with your agent search. And don’t get discouraged. While some people manage to find out while they’re unpublished, I had well over 20 published books under my belt and still had a hard time. But when the right one came along, I was glad I hadn’t signed with anyone else. You don’t just want an agent everyone else says is “good,” you want the agent that’s right for you.

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          • January 9, 2008 at 8:45 pm
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            Good advice. I’ll keep it in mind. I have a couple of leads now and I’ll keep going.

            Thanks again for responding.

            Ann

  • January 8, 2008 at 8:12 pm
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    Re: fraud?

    Joelle, what lake do you live by? Mine is Erie. And I’ve thought of jumping in myself but never throwing in the book. Cool idea. And so appropriate some days …. I’ll wait until the wind is from the South! That way it’ll be in Canada and they can look at it floating around.

    Did you ever hear back from Megan Atwood? From reading this thread, I’d say you’re the last to actually have contact. When she left Llewellyn, I got an email saying she wasn’t going to be there and who she had passed my book along to. Any word from Firebrand?

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    • January 8, 2008 at 8:22 pm
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      Re: fraud?

      Did you just answer this today, or has your answer been floating around in cyberspace for more than a year? It was a year ago last August that Megan was reading my manuscript.

      I did hear from her. Then later I heard from Dia who didn’t seem to know that Megan had it???? In the end, I walked away from all that confusion before we could ever even really talk (although, we were supposed to have a phone conversation). I got an agent last May.

      Well, I used to live on a small man made lake in TN, but now I live out west in B.C. on an island…there is the ocean now!

      Reply
      • January 8, 2008 at 8:51 pm
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        Re: fraud?

        No, it was just today. I’m coming out of my Llewellyn limbo and getting serious about moving the book along. How’s that for bravado? I heard from Andrew in mid-December and took the rest of December off to lick my wounds and orchestrate the holidays. I’m about to launch an agent search in earnest, but I thought I’d start with Megan since she seemed so interested in the book — and very nice when I spoke to her on the phone. Andrew was great, too. I finally just got it through my head that Llewellyn just really wasn’t looking for a book like mine.

        The ocean sounds wonderful. Keep an eye out for loose pages. Maybe my book will float up the Seaway and out into the Atlantic and around the Horn and one day an agent will be sailing somewhere off San Francisco and suddenly, magically — fantasy again!

        Thanks for answering.

        Reply
        • May 5, 2008 at 10:42 pm
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          Megan Atwood

          So where is Megan Atwood now? Is she at at another small publisher?

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          • May 5, 2008 at 11:05 pm
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            I have read somewhere recently that Megan is not in the publishing business at all any longer. I know she was going to school in D.C. awhile back. Maybe she has a new career.

          • May 5, 2008 at 11:52 pm
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            Re: Megan Atwood

            I thought somebody else had told me that, too…but when I searched through old e-mails I couldn’t find it. So I thought I made that up. I sure heard good things about her, though.

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