“I’m a writer.”
by Debra Chappell
The first time I uttered those words was on a plane trip home from New York City recently after meeting with my new agent and editor. It was in response to a fellow passenger asking the reason for my trip, “business or pleasure?” I replied business. Of course, he then followed with the obligatory, “…and what do you do?” I have to admit, I paused. I hesitated slightly longer than normal. I’d never said the words out loud – up until that moment, I hadn’t dared even think them.
I recently read (on another writer’s blog no less) that you are a writer when you say you’re one… I have to disagree. I guess I just don’t have that kind of faith in my own ability. My view is that you’re a writer when someone else says you are. Call me shallow, but I need the validation – and that, to me at least, is what getting published is all about. I think I’m not alone in this. What other reason would have so many aspiring writers losing sleep over manuscript drafts – constructing and re-constructing paragraphs, adding comma’s, deleting same, editing, polishing, composing query letters, story outlines and the dreaded 3-page synopsis, then sending it all off to hundreds of literary agents and publishers only to wait several weeks and sometimes months for a glimmer of encouragement – a meager request for sample chapters perhaps, or the standard “thank you for your submission BUT…” or even a constructively worded rejection letter that is considered progress when compared to the explicit brutality of the last one – any kind of a response for god’s sake, just to know their work made it out of the slush pile and was noticed by someone, anyone in this effing (stands for fickle) industry!! Not that I would know first hand of course, I’m just saying…
Up until this point in my life, I’ve always considered myself a person who likes to write, when it suits me, and usually for fun. I’m the wannabe journalist who overthrew a career-that-never-was for the more lucrative one in real estate. (Ha! Who’s laughing now?) I never considered myself a writer. I dabble. I create the witty little limericks that entertain the sales staff at weekly office meetings. Admittedly, I can write a clever party invitation and on occasion, I’ve even been known to fire off a blistering letter to the editor when I’ve had one too many double-shot lattes, the urge is great, and I don’t give a rats-a** about the repercussions in my Bunko group the following month. (Thankfully, this only happens every four years and usually coincides with election cycles.) But that was then, a lot has changed.
One afternoon while sitting in my office, a little kernel of a story idea percolated to the surface while I was killing time between a cancelled listing appointment and the final phone call of the day notifying me that the falling escrow I’d been trying desperately to save had finally landed squarely on top of the trash heap for good. Suffice it to say, I found the pursuit of that little kernel a helluva lot more entertaining than my day job. To make a long story short (or in this case, the subject of a blog,) much to my astonishment, I now have a New York literary agent, a professional editor, and am on the road to being published. It’s a long journey according to my agent (I love saying that, the novelty still hasn’t worn off, which is kinda weird since I was one myself for almost twenty years, though in a different industry.) She says I have some work to do, okay, a lot of work to do. But at least I have my very small foot in this very big door – and I’m not about to let it slam shut now! So, if you’re up for the ride (or in need of a little creative avoidance from the rigors of your day-timer) you can follow my journey bumps and all, as it unfolds and in real time. I’m sharing it with you in hopes that it will entertain, encourage, and hopefully inspire you to pursue … ah hell, who am I kidding! I’m thrilled to bits about the whole venture and just want to share it with anyone who will listen. Besides, it’s good practice and a great way to inform my terrifically supportive family and friends who call and ask “so…what’s going on with your book anyway?”