The Finding Place: Getting Published
In just a few weeks my novel for young readers, The Finding Place, will be published in both Canada and the States, by Red Deer Press. I’ve been asked quite a few times about my experiences with this novel, so I thought I would share some of those here, with a second blog entry to follow when the novel appears!
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Like a lot of the young writers who take my classes, I wrote my first novel before leaving school. Through university I continued writing, but despite winning a few awards and publishing stories in literary journals, a major publication deal eluded me.
After that, I moved on. Got married, then emigrated to Canada, where we opened Centauri Summer Arts Camp. Over the years, we trained thousands of young arts enthusiasts, ran nineteen international tours, opened an adult arts retreat, and established the Arts Academy in Toronto. But I kept writing. Won more awards, wrote three more novels, got published in literary magazines, and continued to dream.
In November last year, I was hard at work in the camp office when an email came through. It was from a publisher I had sent my novel to, almost a year earlier. Another rejection, I thought. By that time, I’d convinced myself that getting published without contacts wasn’t something that happened to writers any more. I opened the email without enthusiasm.
But it wasn’t a rejection. Far from it.
My husband Craig nearly jumped out of his skin as I leapt from my seat with an involuntary scream and rushed through to the Studio. Craig ran in after me. Such a reaction is a little out of character. I suspect, looking back, that he thought it was bad news. The worst.
Read it, please, I asked him. Read it, and tell me if I’m right about what it says.
Red Deer Press wanted to publish my novel.
I took a writing workshop, recently, in which one participant said he had stopped submitting to publishers, because he felt that getting published was so unlikely. Someone else observed that unlikely though it may be, it becomes impossible if you stop trying. Obvious, maybe, yet true. Since last November, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a writer. I’ve learned that most published novelists have at least one unpublished (and likely unpublishable) novel on their hard drive. That’s how we learn our trade – by writing. There is no other way. I’ve also learned that on average, a writer with potential will take about ten years to get their first novel out. Think about it: a few years of writing, to grow all the necessary skills and to write that apprentice novel that will likely never see the light of day. A couple more years writing the first draft of a publishable novel, then a year or so of reworking. Unless you beat all the odds and get snapped up by an agent or publisher right away, you can expect a couple more years, at least, to go by until your novel ends up on the right desk. Then you may wait 2-3 years more until your novel reaches bookstores. Around ten years in total. Give or take a few.
So what does this mean for writers? Start now. Take classes. Attend readings. And write. Write a lot. But while you do all this, build yourself a career in something else. Don’t put your life on hold – even if you get published, the money you’ll earn likely won’t pay the bills. Whatever you study in university, whatever your career, keep writing and do it regularly. Chances are, you won’t be happy otherwise. You won’t feel fulfilled. Write a lot, and often. Work hard. Learn your craft. Meet other writers. Read voraciously. Go to conferences. When you feel ready (and honesty matters here) submit to publishers and agents as often as you can. And trust that even if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you hoped, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all.
By the way, why are there so many pictures of pointy mountains on my website? These are images of Yangshuo, in China. It’s a feature location in my novel, and one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. More of Yangshuo, soon.