My dreams have come true—I have a published novel. So, why is it that the title author feels fraudulent? It happened again yesterday—a friend of a friend asked, “Aren’t you an author?” I laughed, opened my mouth to correct her, stopped myself, and finally stammered, “Well, sort of…I guess. Actually, I’m a teacher.”
A teacher. A speech pathologist. A guidance counselor. These are roles I freely claim. They feel genuine and unpretentious. Somehow, claiming to be an author feels as phony as the year I donned my husband’s lab coat on Halloween, pretending to be a scientist. I was disguised as someone bigger than myself, someone more accomplished. Authors write beautiful prose and deep literary pieces. Authors have MFA’s, or law degrees from Ivy League schools. Me? I’m just a storyteller who got lucky.
But was it just luck? Or am I just like millions of other women who never feel quite deserving? Why is it so difficult for us women to own our accomplishments, to acknowledge our hard work and tenacity?
My journey to publication began on my knees. I prayed—literally prayed—for an agent. With two previous manuscripts and over a hundred rejection letters under my belt, I began the query process. Five months later I had three offers of representation. My prayers had been answered! It was a miracle! That’s right, a miracle. Not talent, not a terrific book, but divine intervention. With God as my co-conspirer, I was convinced we’d outfoxed these wonderful agents.
Six months later, my agent pitched my book to publishers. I braced myself for rejection, knowing that agent representation did not always translate to a book contract. I was stunned when the novel went to auction. And foreign rights? Beyond imagination! Did I attribute this good fortune to my novel? Of course not. I credited my agent. I assumed she must have whipped everyone into a froth, and they all jumped on the bandwagon. We’d pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. (See? Real writers would never use these clichés.)
Same thing happened when the movie rights sold. Brandy, the film agent, began the call by saying, “First, let me tell you, I loved your book.” Immediately, I panicked. She has me mixed up with another writer! She’s talking about a different book. I actually forced the title into the conversation within the first 60 seconds, fully expecting her to say, “The Life List? Oh, no. Not that silly book. I’m sorry, I thought I was calling so-and-so…a real author.”
It’s not false modesty or a case of low self-esteem. I’m incredibly grateful and proud. The Life List has exceeded my every expectation. And sometimes, like those days when I open an email from a reader, telling me that the story inspired them to go after their long-abandoned dreams, I allow myself a moment of unabashed glee. But then I remember that snarky review I received the day before, and the self-doubt creeps back in.
Today I received news that the book is an international bestseller. Honest! It’s number one in Israel and number three Germany! I shouted to my husband, forwarded the email to my mom and dad. I danced around my kitchen. Then I dropped to my knees, the pinnacle of my journey ending the same way it started—in prayer. In addition to thanks, I added a new request: Please let me write another book.
Because surely, that’s when I’ll feel like a real writer.
A former speech pathologist and guidance counselor, Lori Nelson Spielman currently works as a homebound teacher for inner-city students. Her debut novel, The Life List, was inspired when she discovered an abandoned life list she’d written as a teen. It has been translated into 16 languages, and Fox 2000 has purchased the film option. She and her husband live in Michigan. Please visit her website at http://lorinelsonspielman.com.
Giveaway! I have one three copies of THE LIFE LIST, so if you are in the US please leave a comment with your email address!