Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thoughts on Annette's Thoughts

by Stephanie Black

I found yesterday’s guest blog thought-provoking. Annette Lyon is one of the writers I admire most. She’s a superb writer. She’s very successful—how many books is it now, Annette? Seven? Eight? I look at Annette and think . . . wow. She whips out bestselling books, one after the other, without breaking a sweat. Plus, she has awesome grammar. Show me a woman who knows how to use a semicolon, and we’ll be friends for life. But in reading her blog, I found out that Annette gets frustrated and discouraged. Who knew? She talks of competing with other authors who have the ‘Midas touch’—seemingly effortlessly pulling in the big sales. Wait a sec—I thought Annette was a Midas author. What’s the deal here?

I’m starting to wonder if the community of authors isn’t a lot like Relief Society. We all sit there in our Sunday best, eyeing the sisters on either side of us and thinking how perfect they are and how they have it all together while we bumble around, tripping over our shoelaces. Little do we know that they are eyeing us and thinking the exact opposite—that we’re the ones who are perfection personified and they’re the ones who struggle. We see each other’s outward successes, but we don’t see each other’s inward struggles.

The more I get to know authors individually, the more I find out that I’m not the only one who goes through bouts of discouragement and insecurity. Is it possible that . . . all of us experience those feelings?

Getting published is a tremendously exciting step, the fulfillment of a dream. You have a book on bookstore shelves! You’ve made it! But once you get on the other side of the gate, you find out that, as exciting as it is and as grateful as you are to be here, what you’ve made it to is another path. And there are plenty of boulders and muddy patches and detours on this path. Where you once agonized over getting that first book published, now you agonize over sales numbers and reviews. You agonize over your next book—can you do it again? One thing I didn’t realize before publication was how short a book’s shelf life can be—how quickly it will get bumped out of the limelight by newer books. It’s not enough to publish one book. You have to keep the books coming. No laurel-sitting allowed, or your writing career will fade away.

And what if your next book gets rejected? Pre-pub, I didn’t realize how common post-pub rejection is. Just because a publisher took your first book doesn’t mean they’ll take your second. Just because they took your first two doesn’t mean they’ll take your third. I thought it would get less stressful waiting to hear back on a submitted manuscript. It doesn’t, or at least it hasn’t for me. Waiting to hear back on a manuscript is my absolute least favorite part of being a writer. All that work, all that excitement, all that everything—and it can all collapse in the time it takes you to read the first few sentences of an e-mail. Not fun. And the stakes seem to get higher and higher. With each book, you’ve invested more and more in your writing career. You’ve got more fans, more expectations, more people asking, “So when is your next book coming out?” Post-pub rejection feels a lot like walking full-speed into a brick wall.

But beneath all the stress--and excitement--of the business side of things is the writing itself. I want to thank Annette for reminding me to enjoy the writing—to enjoy the process, the creative rush. I got into this business because I love to write. I love to create stories. When I start getting stressed about one thing or another, I need to stop and remind myself of this fact. So thanks, Annette.

(Which reminds me: I usually post blog and website info for guest bloggers when I post their blogs and I completely forgot yesterday. My apologies, Annette. Visit Annette's blog here and her website here.)


At 6/04/2008 2:10 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Recently I spoke to a small book club where I learned Jeri Gilchrist had been a recent speaker and they had loved her presentation, one was thrilled that she once met Michele Bell, and one was half in love with Rob Wells who had been particularly kind to her at a book signing and had answered a fan letter she sent him. The hostess had once lived in the ward I lived in and couldn't believe it when she read one of my books, looked at the picture in the back, and realized I was the author. All of them expressed some sort of surprize at learning writers are ordinary people. One even said she thought people who published books all lived in mansions, drove expensive cars, and didn't come in contact with people like them. Maybe as writers we suffer from some of the same delusions; we think others write effortlessly, never have doubts, never receive rejections, never struggle to keep apace of our field. The truth is we can write stories that appeal to ordinary people because we face the same trials and insecurities as everyone else and we form close attachments to other writers through blogs, emails, lists, etc., because when it comes right down to it, we have so much in common, including our insecurities.
Great blogs, Stephanie and Annette.

At 6/04/2008 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have left a comment here for you and Jennie. But I'm not sure I should or even can. Maybe I will. No. I think I'm far too uncomfortable putting my words out there for others to read. Because, well, my words refelct my heart and that's a locked box for sure.

Great post Sister black. Are you related to Susan Easton Black yada, yada, yada...?


At 6/04/2008 4:32 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Stephanie - I love how you compared the writing world & groups to relief society. How true!

Jennie - Thanks for your comments, too! I've had similar experiences when ward members come to borrow a book and realize most of my books are signed by the authors. It's funny to see some of them get all flustered, like I met this huge celebrity. And I'm all like - They're normal people. You know, like all my other friends. It just happens that these friends like to write books. :)

At 6/04/2008 5:06 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I think I overheard someone ask Stephanie that very question at her book signing. =)

Danyelle: I made the mistake (?) of clicking on my sister-in-law's GoodReads Friends page, and finding the author I had just barely reviewed there. (Michelle Holmes is in her ward) and then I clicked to see Michelle's friends - whew! - lots of people I recognized from posters on this blog!

It's a small world after all. =)

At 6/04/2008 6:23 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Ly, nope, not related. Jon, yep, I'd forgotten about that!

It is funny how people will refer to us writers as "famous." Hardly!

At 6/04/2008 6:37 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Wow, Stephanie--I don't know what to say. Thank YOU. I kept looking over my shoulder trying to figure out if you were really referring to me. (I just decided--we're semicolon sisters!)

It's nice to know we writers aren't alone in this. And I have to say, your RS analogy is painfully accurate.

At 6/04/2008 7:04 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Stephanie: Absolutely marvelous post. Thank you.

Ly - A locked box for sure, but also a treasure box. I know I'm not the only one who appreciates the glimpses we get of the inside now and again.

My first four guesses, RumplestiLYskin:

Wild & WooLY?

Sorry, I couldn't resist that last one . . . But is it RIGHT? :)

At 6/04/2008 9:21 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...


My cousin married Susan Easton Black's brother-in-law. Does that make me special?


At 6/04/2008 9:23 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

The word verification for this post is "dunno". I'm laughing and wondering if that answers my question.

At 6/04/2008 10:11 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Great post, Stephanie. People tell me "That's so cool you've followed your dream!" And my answer is always, "Yes, but . . ." Following your "dream" is certainly a lot of hard work :)

At 6/04/2008 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno either Marsha, but you are eternally special.

Stephanie: I figured not. You're more inclined toward church history :)

Kerry: Your guesses are so much better than the truth, why don't we just agree to change the meaning. Sadly, all of them are WRONG! Three left. Good luck


PS: I'm really happy you didn't forget about our little game. And do me a favor and google me along with key words: Top of the Morning. I'd love to see you there.

At 6/04/2008 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's an acronym. I would have told you sooner, but I forgot the word until just now. Such a vacuous place that space between the ears.


At 6/05/2008 12:25 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Semicolon sisters! I love it, Annette!

At 6/07/2008 8:10 PM, Blogger Carroll said...

Stephanie, just read your Thoughts on Annette's Thoughts. You've described my experience as a writer spot-on, especially the part about what happens after the book is published. There really never is a moment when authors are done-done, I've discovered. They're only done with one part--and it's time to take the next step.

Nancy, Lael and I are at the point where the last book in our series is about to come out (Surprise Packages, due in July). But it's not a time to rest--there's promotion, keeping up the website (I'm terrible at that) and watering and feeding the new idea which we hope will become a book!

Very cool to know there are so many interesting and accomplished people on the same path.

At 6/08/2008 1:07 AM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

Wow, you hit the nail right on the head for me, Stephanie. Glad to know we all feel this way now and then. Thank you!


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