I’d like to start my first post by saying that I am deeply honored and excited to be writing for Bucket List Publications. Lesley Carter has created an amazing space here, where readers can share in exciting adventures, visit new places, and join along in experiences that are often beyond most of our wildest dreams. Lesley has enthusiastically acknowledged that this has all been beyond her wildest dreams as well (here); but, as a reader, I’ve felt fortunate to get to enjoy these things vicariously on the pages of Bucket List. Reading Lesley’s posts encourages me to seek my own adventures and reach beyond my comfort zone. I thank her for allowing me this incredible opportunity to stretch, and have my writing read by more readers.
Writing this post is an exciting challenge for me. I am a writer, still finding my niche. I am currently marketing my first novel; I actively post on my own blog, Tales From the Motherland; I’ve had my work published in the book Tangerine Tango, Women Writers Share Slices of Life (available on Amazon); and I am very excited to participate in the world of Bucket List Publications. I admit to some initial trepidation. I am not out there bungee jumping, skydiving, or flying all over the world. I am a passionate traveler, but I am also a parent to three kids: 23, 21 and 17 years old. While our family has certainly enjoyed more travel and adventure than some, there’s no doubt that my adventures have been a lot closer to home over the past twenty years. When Lesley offered me the opportunity to write a weekly post here, I worried a little about what I have to offer. Would my adventures and goals bore readers? Do I need to jump out of a plane to catch their attention? However, upon further thought, I believe that I have something different to offer to Bucket List Readers, and I’m really excited about that! I hope you enjoy what I bring to these pages; I hope you feel free to offer honest feedback; and I look forward to sharing my take on the world with the readers of Bucket List Publications.
I think the perfect place for me to start on Bucket List is with my writing. I am a fifty-year old woman who is finally going after a dream that I’ve had since I was a child: to be a published writer. To clarify: my work is published in someone else’s book; I have written numerous articles for our local alternative daily paper, mostly on travel, food and Jewish holidays; and, I publish posts on my blog each week. In that sense, I’m a published writer. However, I have always wanted to write a “real book,” a novel, which is published and read by others. I want to see a book that I’ve written in my local bookstore. It’s daunting; it’s scary; it’s exciting; and, it’s a challenge. I finally feel ready to go after that dream.
In many ways, it’s the classic writer’s tale: I wrote my novel nine years ago. I wrote it in two months, and I thought it was done. In fact, I was pretty cocky and thought it was done, and good. At the time, I was busy with three young, very active kids; so my novel sat on my desk and regularly reminded me that I was not going after my dream. I let other junk pile up on top of it. I buried it deeper in my office; and, still it hissed at me, when I’d go in my office (an increasingly cluttered place) to get something else. It came up every time my son, Middle Man (I do not use my kid’s names, at their request) asked me: “When are you going to do something with your book, Mom?” It nagged at me each time one of the friends I’d prematurely told, asked me what I was doing with my book. It became a thorn in my side, not the dream I’d started out with.
Six more A few years went by, and I did nothing with my work. I eventually took a writing class, and that got me excited again, but still, I didn’t really put my focus on seeing my dream to fruition. Then, two years ago I started a blog, Tales From the Motherland, and I started writing several times a week. I worked up some courage and told a few people about my blog, and slowly but surely, people started reading my work. The writing, combined with having others read it and share their thoughts, was so exciting, so fresh, so liberating! I felt like I had a venue for doing what I really love: writing; and, a place where I could express myself, without debate from my three kids or my spouse. Tales From the Motherland is all mine, and it gave me a much needed push, to go out there and start pursuing a bigger dream. Writing regularly on my blog, I realized that I wanted more to connect to people through my writing. I have stories to tell, and characters to flesh out.
I went into my office and I really stopped and looked at the big bound book, printed at Kinkos so many years before, sitting on my cluttered desk. I had started submitting chapters to my writing group, before starting the blog, but I was still dragging my feet. I had let other things get in the way of what I wanted, and had let my dream of writing a book and getting it published collect dust. Up until that point, I was doing a lot of re-writing— as I slowly came to terms with the fact that the first draft was just that: a (very) rough first draft! I took the feedback from my writing group and really listened. I worked diligently on my blog posts, and read the comments. Over time, those two things (blogging and my writing group) helped my writing really expand and grow. The edits to my novel became increasingly focused and clear; the writing got tighter; and, my dream of getting a book published really caught fire.
Two+ years later, my first novel is complete. Those are hard words for a writer to say; there is always more editing we can do. Editing goes on and on, and I’m always thinking of a new sentence to add, or something I should cut. However,I believe I’ve nuanced and worked it as much as I can, for now. I attended the Pacific North West Writer’s Conference in July and had the opportunity to “pitch” my novel to ten editors and/or agents. Talk about daunting! I was so ill-prepared for the first pitch that I literally felt like I was speaking in tongues! I’m fairly sure that not an intelligent word came out of my mouth. I could hear the crash and burn soundtrack, when the New York agent asked me “why should I care about this main character,” and the only thing I could think to say was: I don’t know. Disaster!
I went back to my hotel room that night and cried. Then, I pulled myself up by my invisible bootstraps and reminded myself that I have a dream: I want to see my book published! I absorbed the feedback that this very talented and patient agent gave me; I worked on editing and re-working my pitch; and, I went back the next day for my official pitch session. Picture a 45 minute speed dating experience, in which you have exactly (and the big bouncer and loud timer do indeed mean exactly) four minutes to tell a stranger why they should pick your work, and make your dream come true. I entered that room focused, determined and passionate. I met with nine editor/agents and I floated out of that room 45 minutes later, with nine invitations to submit my manuscript! No amount of pinching could pull me out of that high, for the first week or so!
I’ve since sent my manuscript into seven of those editors/agents. Two of the requests were to read my second work, which is mostly finished, but upon further consideration, I realized it wasn’t ready for prime time. I take my dream seriously now. It isn’t something to waste “mostly ready drafts” on. And that is the point here, readers: believe in your own dream, and be ready to fight for it. Go after it with gusto! I spent years, and years, and more years, making excuses for why I wasn’t writing, why my manuscript was still sitting in my (still) cluttered office. It wasn’t until I really took my own dream seriously, and had the courage and conviction to go after it, that things started happening. Who knows if any of the seven people I submitted my work to will buy into my dream? We’ve all read the stories of published writers: “he submitted to 45 publishers, and was denied 44 times.” “She lived in her car.” “He/she wrote it on a napkin…” Rejection, rejection and more rejection. I’ve read all those stories too. But, reading those stories just reminds me that the people who made it, simply failed a few more times than those who didn’t. They persevered and stayed the course. I’m in it to see my dream come true. I’m a Weeble; I wobble, but I get back up.
What’s your dream? Are you pursuing it? What keeps you going; what stands in your way? Share your thoughts in the comment section. Hit “Like” if you enjoyed this post.
Dawn Quyle Landau is a writer who prefers to “Free fall.” Her work has appeared in Tangerine Tango, Women Writers Share Slices of Life; Cascadia Weekly; The Outlier Collective; Bucket List Publications; and in her blogs, Tales From the Motherland and The Huntington’s Chronicles. Dawn is the mother of three mostly grown, amazing and adventurous kids; and best buddy to a studly lab, named Luke. She and her husband of 27 years, live a very good life surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the Pacific North West.
Dawn, you are an inspiration to everyone who ever sat on a dream and then seized the opportunity to chase it. In a way, trying to get published is far more frightening than jumping out of a plane.
Thank you Emily. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and leave a comment; it means a lot to me! Honestly, I think I’d rather be jumping out of the plane right now; at least it would be over in an hour or so! In this case, the waiting really IS the hardest part! 😉
Great article, Dawn! Nice to see you over here. Your writing experience mirrors mine in quite a lot of ways. I wish you luck with the query process!
Thank you Carrie. I appreciate the support and encouragement, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that my experience goes as well as yours!
My dream is to live abroad with my husband and son. I’m taking the steps to change my career from attorney to travel writer as we speak so that we can hit the ground running.
Melanie, thanks so much for taking the time to read my first post, and comment; much appreciated! You should check out Applecore (http://globalexplorerclub.wordpress.com/) it’s a blog written by a really cool blogger, Mike, who, with his wife, sold everything and is now traveling around the world, living for 6 months in carefully selected (bucket list) locations. He and Florence are amazing, and his blog is really fun to follow. He’s great about sharing tips, and he and I met when he was in my area recently. Really fun, after commenting back and forth for so long! 🙂
I wish you all the best in figuring out how to pursue this amazing dream. Keep me posted and I hope you’ll stop by again! Dawn
Thank you for your reply. I’m struggling with actually taking the leap – quitting my job and pursuing this writing career. My husband has given me the go-ahead, but it’s really scary as I’ve had a steady income for so long. How do you muster up the courage to take the plunge?
I try to answer every comment; I’m really grateful to readers who take the time to connect! Thanks again.
To answer your question, two parts: I was fortunate in that I was not working outside our home. I made the plunge to quit my career as a therapist, years ago— when our daughter was born. So, I didn’t have that hurdle to get over. However, you might consider trying the writing on your off time for a while. Can you carve out some specific times when you JUST WRITE? That might be a “safer” first step, that would give you a feel for putting in the time writing, how your project feels and help you figure out what your really want, as well.
The second option is to just do it. Sure it’s scary. No doubt, giving up a career AND moving your family abroad are huge steps; but, what an exciting adventure for you all! It was scary as hell to commit to finishing my manuscript and then sending it out there. That 2nd step (sending it out there) took me the longest, and was by far the scariest part. That fear of failure in us, whether conscious or unconscious is huge! It’s been hard to stick to it and help my family understand that this is “what I do,” to make them understand that when I’m “working;” I’m not available. But, the thing I regret most: is having waited so long to do all of this. I can’t get that time back, and it’s so frustrating that I waited such a long time to do what I really love, what I really want. If this is your dream, and your husband supports you, only you can decide whether to leap. (If I was standing there, though, I’d probably nudge you 😉 ) I hope that helps?
Hi Dawn. Your novel-writerly life sounds much like mine: cluttered office (in the process of being decluttered, though), buried manuscript, friends prodding, writing workshop, etc. I even went to a writers conference several years ago and my one and only editor-pitch landed me a request for the manuscript. But at that time, I wasn’t even finished writing it. Things come up, and the now-almost-finished-edited tome still sits, waiting for me. So your post was really a mirror saying “get it done.” Best of luck with your submissions. Seven is a lucky number.
Jennifer, Carpe! Carpe! Go for it! It’s so easy to let ourselves— especially as mothers, wives, working women, to get distracted from our own dreams. That manuscript nagged at me for years! But, now I so regret that I waited so long. I’d give a lot to go back and do it differently… So, if I nudged you, even a tiny big, I am so happy. Do it. Let me know what happens, and I hope you’ll check back and keep cheering my progress. There’s plenty of room on the book shelves for both of us!
You should be proud of your accomplishments. You will make all of your dreams come true. Drive and ambition can’t be conquered. I hope you find all the happiness that is out there.
Trying to live the dream,
Thank you Gail! I hope you’re right, I’m ready for this! 😉 Let’s both keep our fingers crossed; I’m happy to have all the fingers I can get! Hope your dreams and goals come out the way you’d like as well. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; much appreciated!
Dawn! So awesome to read your post here. I am waiting for your post telling us all that 5 of the publishers who received your manuscript are having a bidding war over it. Kudos to you. (When I finally decide to write a book, I’ll ask you where to take a local writing class. I definitely need help.)
Thanks Susan. Boy, from your mouth to G’s ear! Or, Random House’s ear, or any other publisher for that matter! Thanks for the wonderful encouragement and kudos. And thanks for taking the time to read my work; much appreciated!
Congratulations on the warm reception to your book, and thanks for sharing your story of perseverance.
It was a real thrill to have my manuscript get some professional approval. However, the waiting for feedback and/or publishing is sooo hard! That’s just it though: what we want rarely just drops in our laps, or comes easily. All of those clichés about what’s worth having, and all. My fingers will be crossed for a while!