you can write

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I never got around to telling you guys my news.

I heard back from the agent who requested my book at the Atlanta Writer's Conference. She decided not to offer me representation at the moment, but she did have some lovely, encouraging words for me:

You have a wonderful, fresh voice and true writing chops. Your characters are authentic and believable teens, and the humor is fantastic. Your writing is a joy to read! I'm so sorry not to have better news for you, but please rest assured that I think you have a fantastic career ahead of you. I am truly sorry not to be able to offer you representation at this time, Wendi, but I wish you the very best of publishing luck as you move forward and I do hope you'll keep in touch. My door is always open to you. In fact, I would love it if you'd consider me for future work! I think you're a great talent.

 I wrote to some friends of mine and told them about her email. And while it wasn't the news I was hoping to hear, I certainly couldn't feel badly about it. 

I keep reading her email over and over, relishing the idea that she finds me talented. I feel a little blush in my cheeks when I read that she believes I'm a "great talent...[with] true writing chops." It's pretty magnificent, to say the least.

Of course, the moment I read her email I burst into tears. I wasn't exactly thrilled about it then. But I wasn't upset for the reasons many might think. I wasn't angry or hurt. I understood her decision. I was simply disappointed. One of her comments was that my story arc wasn't as unique as it needed to be to compete in this market. After thinking on this for days, I realized that, yes, I'm a great writer. My voice is strong and compelling. My characters are like real people who make you feel and think and love.

But I'm not a good storyteller. 

I think of authors like Stephenie Meyer who conjure up whole words in their imagination but are, unfortunately, not-so-great writers (just my opinion). I'm the opposite. I have a terribly difficult time with the details of a story because I only have an ending in mind. Or a scene upon which to build. It's challenging for me to create a long, high arc that will keep the attention of my readers for long periods of time. They might love the characters. They might feel connected to them. But if the story in which the characters live is not unique, or compelling, enough to make them want to keep reading, it won't matter.

I'm not having a pity party. This agent simply opened my eyes to the struggle I've been having for years. There has always been something sort of off about my work. It has never felt fully complete, even when I edit and re-edit (and maybe edit some more). 

Perhaps I should go the way of short stories. They're the best of both worlds. But no. I think I can do this. It's just going to take more time.

I've spent the last few days feeling pretty blue. Some of it has do with the cold weather and the passing of Christmas, my favorite holiday (which, as I wrote on my last post, is always a little sad for me), but most of it has to do with the many changes happening in my life right now. We've been in our house less than two months and I just lost my job. I'm still wrestling with feeling confident about God's plan for our lives, for us to become parents when, and if, He decides to bless us with children. I think about that all the time. It's part of an underlying struggle I face each day. And so when I got the news about my book, it just felt like another obstacle to face.

And it is. But that doesn't mean it's insurmountable. I just don't know where to start.

Yesterday, as I stood in front of the fridge and wondered if I should eat because I was actually hungry or because I was just bored (isn't that the place we always find ourselves when we don't know what else to do?), I started to play around with the magnetic letters we got from some friends when we bought this house.  I thought about how I'm going to change my book. What I should change. If I can really even do this. And I spelled out the words "Can I write?" because that's all I could really come up with. More questions.

Today, when I went into the kitchen to make lunch, I looked up at the fridge and saw this:

A little love letter from my husband, who saw my question and gave me the answer I needed. He never said anything to me about it. He just wrote what he knew to be true.

So that's my answer. Write what I know to be true. 

Don't think about writing to please an agent, Wendi. Don't write something because I think it will sell or because it sounds good. Write because it's what I know to be true about the characters I've created. Write because it's a story that needs to be told, and only I can tell it.

I can do this. I can tell stories.

I can write.


Liz Luscomb said...

A literary agent, Elizabeth, from New York was the agent that caused me to cry. Not because she was mean, rather, it was because I had put so much hope on to her.

After so many rejection emails/letters from other agencies, I was ready to give up for awhile.

Then Elizabeth requested my manuscript which immediately made me think that she would be the one to launch my career. Nope. She sweetly rejected my manuscript by email, prompting me to leave my house with my dog to cry it out. God had other plans for me and I know he has other plans for you. You see, a few days after the "big time agent" rejected my manuscript, another small publishing company loved it and offered me a three year contract.
Hang in there, God works in mysterious ways.

My name is Wendi. said...

Thank you, Liz, for your encouragement! I am going to keep working on the manuscript because I believe this agent is right. And she has shared that she would love to see the book again once I've made edits. I'm just struggling with where to begin. I'm going to have to think on it for awhile and take my time. I have a hard time not rushing because I want so badly for things to happen, you know? But you're right. God works in mysterious ways. And in His time. Thanks for reading!