I decided I wanted to become a writer when I was six years old. There were many decades and scores of rejection letters between that crazy decision and success! Over the years I published lots of short stories, a first novel, and two anthologies. But the true, wild, crazy, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening moment in my career came a couple of years ago when my agent submitted my novel, French Lessons, to American publishers.
I was offered a fellowship to a writers’ residency in Florida that same week. Perfect timing, I thought. I can ignore the anxiety (ha!) about waiting to hear from publishers and immerse myself in writing the next novel. My agent went out with the novel on a Friday – the following Monday morning she called me and told me that she already had two offers. Within a few more days, NINE PUBLISHERS wanted to buy my novel. For an adrenalin-fueled week, I sat on a boardwalk in the middle of the woods – the only place my cell phone worked – and took phone calls from New York editors who all tried to convince me that they were the perfect editor/publisher for my novel.
Each editor told me how much they loved the novel and how sure they were they could make it a great success. I listened and swooned. Dreams really come true? This kind of impossible dream?
A week later my agent set up an auction and within two days, the novel was sold to Ballantine. Within the next week, it began to sell in countries all over the world.
I didn’t get any writing done at that residency. I just absorbed the experience, drank champagne, called my husband a million times, and basked in the glow. Writers don’t get that very often. Most of what we do is very hard work, and rarely do we get a true sense of success. I’ve been working very hard at my career for so many years and with so many frustrations along the way. It’s a remarkable experience to finally reap the rewards of all that work.
The next week I returned home and started the next novel. But whenever I’m struggling and I start to lose faith, I remember sitting on that boardwalk in the woods and listening to the voices of all those editors. I can breathe it in, sit up straighter, and get back to work.