My first love was the Six Million Dollar Man. Unfortunately, the demands of fifth grade prevented me from moving closer to his secret government hideout, but my imagination overcame our geographical separation. I recorded our romance in my trusty yellow spiral notebook. Not only did Steve Austin and I solve many mysteries, but we fell madly in love, got married, and had five bionic children.
Happily, I discovered that my friend would read my short stories as long as she had a steady supply of peanut butter cups and grape soda. There’s nothing like a loyal reader and sugar to spur a youngster to greater achievements, and I decided that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I immediately began to research my favorite subject matter: “boys.” Luckily, I lived in a neighborhood full of them. Thanks to their need for teammates and my love of sports, I assimilated into their secret society and spent my youth playing football, basketball and baseball. During that time, I peered into the male psyche, I learned the language of men, and I mastered various ways to replicate the sound of a fart. My education was complete.
I didn’t hit a bump in the road until I started college. I planned to major in English Literature because I liked to read English Literature. However, I was surrounded by engineers and pre-meds and biology majors who said, “Nobody hires English majors!” Frightened by the prospect of unemployment, I opted to study Business. During that bleak era stained by the drudgery of Statistics, Economics, and Business Law, I discovered romance novels. The plots, the dialogue, and the promise of a happy ending got me through college. I went through romance novels like my classmates went through beer.
I wrote my first romance novel when I was in graduate school. Why write your Masters thesis when your shiny new typewriter can be put to better use? Not only that, I had to write. The creative release of putting word to paper was something I craved. The spoken word was too difficult for me. I wasn’t fast on my feet. My thoughts got lost in the process of trying to get them out of my mouth, but a keyboard made the words fly out of me. Better yet, writing gave me the chance to invent a reality that made sense to me.
After I got married, I set up an office in the closet of our guest bedroom and wrote romance when my children napped. Occasionally, I’d submit a manuscript. I got gobs of rejection letters. Every rebuff was disappointing, but I kept writing because it was too fun to quit. To learn more about my favorite hobby, I joined the Romance Writers of America. I started going to conferences. I opened myself up to criticism, which wasn’t an easy thing to do. Writing is an intensely personal thing, and any negative critique can cut like a knife. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and befuddling, but I loved learning about the craft I so enjoyed.
A few months ago, I asked a literary agent if she was taking new clients. She invited me to send the first 50 pages of my current manuscript. She didn’t like how it began. She asked me to change it, and I sent a revision. She asked to see the rest of my manuscript. To my horror, she found a punctuation error that appeared throughout my entire story. I was convinced that I ruined my chance to impress her, but I corrected my mistakes and resubmitted the manuscript. After all my false starts and stupid errors, I feared that there was no chance that she’d like my novel. I prepared myself for yet another rejection letter.
To the contrary, she offered to become my literary agent.
I am over the moon with excitement. Writing romance is so darn fun, and I’m delighted at the prospect of finding more readers. Which reminds me, I need to buy more peanut butter cups and grape soda. In any event, I can credit my good fortune to one thing: failure. Every rejection letter, negative critique, and roadblock I encountered made me a better writer.
So, for any of you dreamers who have a file cabinet full of rejection letters, take heart. I can’t guarantee that your dreams will come true, but I know for certain that failure will help you if you only let it.