Savell, you’re a nobody. Some angst ridden teen posing as a writer, with skills both mediocre and questionable. How in the name of Satan’s burning ass did you get a reputable publishing agency to notice your work?
I don’t really know. Maybe it was divine intervention. Or luck. Or perhaps they pitied me . . .
Okay, no more self-deprecating humor. For now.
Here’s the deal: I expected it to take months, years even, to get a publishing agency’s attention. I considered self promotion but thought I’d try at least 6 months before throwing myself down that particular flight of stairs.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Looks like my skills are pretty mediocre. Ha, ha.
Don’t judge me.
Okay, so here’s how I, an angst ridden nobody writer wannabe with mediocre skills, was bestowed the honor of publication.
It all began in college . . .
I took a creative writing class my freshman year. I wanted to drop it as soon as the teacher, one Mrs. Gena Probst (who is an AMAZING woman beyond any expectations or thought), told us how we’d have to write stories, and have them read by other kids.
I am so dropping, I thought. But what English class to take now . . .
No sooner had I thought it did she say, “Who here now wants to drop the class because you’re afraid of others reading your writing?”
Some fellow crumb snatchers raised their hands.
I don’t remember the exact words; I was too disappointed then and my brain too scattered now. Point is, she said, “If you’re going to write, people are going to have to see your work!”
Simple. Brilliant. And quite obvious.
Writing was and is, a passion; fear has always kept that passion tethered and muzzled in some restricted corner of my brainspace. People always told me I should write and I’d say, “Yeah, that’d be cool but it’ll never happen for me. I suck.” And I do. I’ll never astound the world with my literary technique or bring Atlas to his knees with one strategically placed metaphor. I’m just not that great.
But I’m getting published. And not by any rinky dink ole agency but by Medallion Press, a reputable and professional agency who has been wonderfully kind to me.
So I decided to stay in that creative writing class. I mean, I needed to thicken my skin if I ever had hopes of making it as a writer. And where better than a room full of rude, hormonal teens?
I didn’t know what to write. I had no damn idea. I tossed ideas around with my best friend William and finally, a little niggle of a notion sprouted up between my brain cracks.
So I wrote. And it sucked. And after being grouped with three others and reading their stuff and writing the good and bad stuff about it in a peer review page, Mrs. Probst let the bomb hit the floor:
We’d be giving our critiques, the ones we stupidly assumed would be for her eyes only– to the authors themselves.
Most students admitted the only reason they took the class was for a Humanities credit. They, like me, had but a vague idea of what would go on. Reading your stuff aloud? Embarrassing but manageable. People can’t shank you where you stand just because your shit, well, is actually shitty. But the personal things we’d written about the stories? All the corrections, the snide comments, the little intentional and unintentional jabs at the weaknesses of this newborn creation?
I’m sure not all of us were harsh. I sure as hell wasn’t; I’m kind that way. Or gutless.
You should have seen the looks. People were practically trying to absorb the bad words with their eyes, like they’d lift off the page and haul ink down the hallway.
My least favorite group member, the troll who shall hereafter be referred to as Cherry, turned to me and said in a somewhat nervous voice that I should know beforehand that, “I was in a bad mood when I wrote this, so don’t pay attention to it too much,” or something along those lines.
I’ve lost the peer review paper but I remember most of her complaints: This story is atrocious. It has no clear plot, the wording is poor, it makes no sense, the voice is confusing, etc. etc.
I could handle criticism where it was due. I mean, it was only like 14 pages or so into it and as I said, it was a baad first draft. But Cherry was cruel, biting in her remarks. She made it personal when I had known her all of a week. Like I said, I don’t remember all the words, but there is one part that stuck. Paraphrased, it’s as follows:
“I have no desire to ever pick up this piece of trash ever again. It is the worst written piece of literature that I have ever had the displeasure of reading.”
I cried. Like a bitch. I mean, who was SHE to judge me? Sure, her story was coherent. And precise. And flawless. And had plot line and direction and style. But that grummy mold eating gremlin had no right to demolish me before I’d even started.
I got sad. Then I got pissed. I went home and I fixed every single mistake she’d pointed out. I overhauled my story, amped up the dialogue, hit the description with an adrenaline injection and wrote much more than I needed to. The rest of my semester was dedicated to showing Mrs. Perfect Polly why I was better.
I didn’t get better. I got good. Her corrections numbered less and less; as it did, the resentment in her blossomed. I could see it, the quiet displeasure at my other group members compliments; how when we discussed stories she’d flip back through mine, searching for more mistakes to mark down.
I didn’t mind. She was fueling my desire to write, and to write well.
At the end of the semester we needed about 25 pages; I had 97. You should have seen her face. I believe she called it my “manuscript” that I so proudly banged on Mrs. Probst’s desk.
Cherry could write, don’t get me wrong. She put the words in the nice little spots. She didn’t rock the boat. She didn’t stand in the boat and she certainly did not paddle around in it. Not insulting that arrogant, know it all cretin who consumed class time listening to herself talk . . .
My ugliness is showing. Allow me to re-sheathe it.
So months later, I finished the manuscript. Mrs. P, my mentor and one of my “Moms”, looked it over and gave her blessing.
I was ready.
I started querying. Which is a tribulation in itself. One simply does not “query”. It took lots of work. And research. And more writing and more editing and more research and oh my God will this crap ever pay off I’m starting to see my manuscript in my sleep! RAWR!
So yeah. I queried about five (maybe four) agencies. I got rejected twice.
I could deal. Twice burned is fine. It’s just thickening the skin. It’s not like I was that good anyhow.
Then came the day I opened the email and saw a reply from another publishing group. I was jittery, hopeful, bubbly like carbonated water shaken, not stirred. Surely my prayers would be–
It said, “Sorry, you’re a LOSER and well, we don’t want your stupid, juvenile crap. You are now to be vanquished from the face of this earth.” Or something like that.
I was devastated. I have a shaky self-esteem as it is and those rejections had effectively toppled them into the dirt.
I checked my second email and saw something . . . strange.
A reply from another agency.
Screw it, they aren’t dumping my ass ag-“OH HOLY CRAP, OH HOLY CRAP, OH JESUS!”
Shortly thereafter came the squealing, the screaming, the sobbing, the phone calls, the Facebook status, and shortly after that, the celebratory sandwich.
I was in.
And that folks is how I, an angst ridden nobody writer wannabe with mediocre skills, was bestowed the honor of publication.
And it’s pretty damn sweet.