[my writing life] Failure IS an Option

OK, this year has been incredibly good for writing news for me so far. There has been a book sale (more details to come after I sign a contract), a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, a Cybils award, Scholastic Book Club fun, Golden Kite Picture Book Text Honor, another honor I can’t announce yet, the Riverby Award for nature writing…wow. I am overwhelmed, and I am so grateful for all your congratulations and good-natured cheering me on.

But…

But, I don’t want you to get the impression that my writing life is somehow golden, and I am immune to failure. Has this been an awesome two months? Oh, you bet! I wish it could stay like this forever. But it won’t. And even with all the wonderful news rolling in lately,?I’ve had?failures, too. So, just to keep it real, I thought I’d share a few things:

  • Other than two books that are companion books to an already-existing book, I have not had a sale in years. That’s right–years. My agent is submitting. Editors are rejecting.
  • I have yet to sell another poetry collection. Clarion acquired Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School?and BookSpeak!: Poems About Books?back in 2007 (and maybe 2008 for BookSpeak). That was my last poetry collection sale. I love Clarion and want to publish another book with them, but I haven’t come up with the right project. Um. I haven’t come up with the right project for any other wonderful publishers of children’s poetry, either.
  • I recently did an assessment writing test/audition that took about four hours for a company I wrote for years ago. They put out a call, so they are actively looking for writers. Here’s the brush-off I got: “Thank you for completing [XYZ’s] writing exercise. We appreciate your time, but currently, we do not have any writing opportunities that match your abilities. We will contact you if this changes.”
  • I signed up for Picture Book Marathon 2013, and instead of writing 26 picture book rough drafts, I wrote–wait for it–one. One measly little first draft.

OK, I’m getting depressed, so I won’t list anymore. I just want to share that while I accomplish a lot of my goals, and while I’ve had a lovely streak of luck in the reception to my books recently, I’m still there in the trenches–winning some, losing some, and writing anyway.

Anybody want to share their biggest writing-related failure/disappointment recently?

66 Responses

  1. Congratulations on your successes, Laura! So amazing! And oh boy do I get the other frustrations! I’m in the same boat. I haven’t had a sale in a long, long time, just rejection after rejection — mostly nice, but still, rejections. It is discouraging. We need a plan! And some chocolate 🙂

    1. I agree, Susanna. Btw, did I already message you and tell you I enjoyed your interview on Brain Burps? You were terrific! Now, regarding the plan…will you be at ALA or SCBWI Los Angeles or NCTE this year? Would love to get together for plans and dessert. Or at least dessert.

        1. Bummer. Yeah, I usually only do one big conference/convention per year, if that. This year is a bonanza of great trips…but awfully expensive:>( NCTE is the National Council of Teachers of English. I’ve gone to their annual convention twice. BookSpeak was an NCTE Notable book, so the conference last year was amazing for me. I’m playing a minor role on an NCTE Committee, so I’m committed to attending the conference this year and next year. http://www.ncte.org/ and I also blogged several times about the conference last year and what I got out of it as a writer. You can see those posts, if you have any interest or are thinking of going, here: http://laurasalas.wordpress.com/?s=NCTE

  2. Congratulations on your successes, Laura! So amazing! And oh boy do I get the other frustrations! I’m in the same boat. I haven’t had a sale in a long, long time, just rejection after rejection — mostly nice, but still, rejections. It is discouraging. We need a plan! And some chocolate 🙂

    1. I agree, Susanna. Btw, did I already message you and tell you I enjoyed your interview on Brain Burps? You were terrific! Now, regarding the plan…will you be at ALA or SCBWI Los Angeles or NCTE this year? Would love to get together for plans and dessert. Or at least dessert.

        1. Bummer. Yeah, I usually only do one big conference/convention per year, if that. This year is a bonanza of great trips…but awfully expensive:>( NCTE is the National Council of Teachers of English. I’ve gone to their annual convention twice. BookSpeak was an NCTE Notable book, so the conference last year was amazing for me. I’m playing a minor role on an NCTE Committee, so I’m committed to attending the conference this year and next year. http://www.ncte.org/ and I also blogged several times about the conference last year and what I got out of it as a writer. You can see those posts, if you have any interest or are thinking of going, here: http://laurasalas.wordpress.com/?s=NCTE

  3. It’s definitely a roller-coaster career, isn’t it? But what makes it okay is that you love what you do AND you’re making the world a better place with your writing AND you’re achieving success along the way, so that’s why we admire you so much!

    1. Is IS! And you’re right about it being worth it. It’s more fun when I have all this great news and fun things are happening, but it’s still worth it even when all my work is under the radar but hopefully reaching at least a few kids. Thanks for your very sweet thoughts!

  4. It’s definitely a roller-coaster career, isn’t it? But what makes it okay is that you love what you do AND you’re making the world a better place with your writing AND you’re achieving success along the way, so that’s why we admire you so much!

    1. Is IS! And you’re right about it being worth it. It’s more fun when I have all this great news and fun things are happening, but it’s still worth it even when all my work is under the radar but hopefully reaching at least a few kids. Thanks for your very sweet thoughts!

  5. I wouldn’t say failure — because you are not giving up!

    I think it is about balance and perspective. And your books and poetry make the world a more beautiful place. 🙂

    1. Well, true. I just mean not every manuscript is a shining success (not by a loooooooong shot), and I don’t want people to get the impression that it’s just rainbows and unicorns all over in the Salas writing world:>) Thanks for the kind words!

  6. I wouldn’t say failure — because you are not giving up!

    I think it is about balance and perspective. And your books and poetry make the world a more beautiful place. 🙂

    1. Well, true. I just mean not every manuscript is a shining success (not by a loooooooong shot), and I don’t want people to get the impression that it’s just rainbows and unicorns all over in the Salas writing world:>) Thanks for the kind words!

  7. Laura, thanks for baring your soul and letting us know it’s not all wine and roses (and chocolate). Hopefully you can leverage your recent successes into successes to come. As a new writer, I’m not sure whether to be assured or terrified by this post. Ha, ha.

    1. Be both:>) A tiny bit terrified so you know in your bones that you’re likely in for a rough road. A lot reassured because you know there’s a lot of traveling right there alongside you:>)

      1. You are a great mentor, Laura! Your advice is sound, compassionate, and inspiring. Thanks for being there for us!

  8. Laura, thanks for baring your soul and letting us know it’s not all wine and roses (and chocolate). Hopefully you can leverage your recent successes into successes to come. As a new writer, I’m not sure whether to be assured or terrified by this post. Ha, ha.

    1. Be both:>) A tiny bit terrified so you know in your bones that you’re likely in for a rough road. A lot reassured because you know there’s a lot of traveling right there alongside you:>)

      1. You are a great mentor, Laura! Your advice is sound, compassionate, and inspiring. Thanks for being there for us!

  9. Sigh, Laura. The writing life is filled with hills and valleys. I’m sorry you’re going through a low period. Your talent will shine through. Fingers crossed that the Cybils award will help get your name out there. Sending good wishes your way.

    1. Thanks, Laura! It’s always a mix of highs and lows, right? Sometimes I would like a sherpa to carry some baggage while I’m on the uphill slog:>) Thanks for the good wishes!

  10. Sigh, Laura. The writing life is filled with hills and valleys. I’m sorry you’re going through a low period. Your talent will shine through. Fingers crossed that the Cybils award will help get your name out there. Sending good wishes your way.

    1. Thanks, Laura! It’s always a mix of highs and lows, right? Sometimes I would like a sherpa to carry some baggage while I’m on the uphill slog:>) Thanks for the good wishes!

  11. I hear you! I have a children’s picture book that got a great reception when it was first published less than two years ago, but has only sold six copies this year. Six! My just-released parenting book is getting a great reception at the moment, but I can’t help feeling like I’m just waiting for it to fizzle. Why can’t we just enjoy the ups without warning ourselves that “It might not last?” *Sigh* Congrats on your MANY successes, and may they last and multiply!

    1. Oh, gosh. That hurts. My STAMPEDE pretty much fizzled right from the start, if that’s any consolation. But it’s probably not. It’s hard when we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, right. Congrats on the lovely reception for TWO THOUSAND KISSES. Focus on the difference that every single copy sold might make in one or more kids’ lives:>)

  12. I hear you! I have a children’s picture book that got a great reception when it was first published less than two years ago, but has only sold six copies this year. Six! My just-released parenting book is getting a great reception at the moment, but I can’t help feeling like I’m just waiting for it to fizzle. Why can’t we just enjoy the ups without warning ourselves that “It might not last?” *Sigh* Congrats on your MANY successes, and may they last and multiply!

    1. Oh, gosh. That hurts. My STAMPEDE pretty much fizzled right from the start, if that’s any consolation. But it’s probably not. It’s hard when we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, right. Congrats on the lovely reception for TWO THOUSAND KISSES. Focus on the difference that every single copy sold might make in one or more kids’ lives:>)

  13. Laura, thanks for sharing some of your personal valleys in the up and down world of writing. You’re a terrific writer, so it’s hopeful that even someone with your success hits potholes and roadblocks every now and again. And you’re definitely not alone in that regard. Several years ago, just as I was picking up speed, the recession hit and sent me two giant steps back. In fact, just before the economy took a nose dive, Clarion bought one of my rhyming picture book manuscripts. Within months, everything ground to a halt. My editor was let ago, along with many others in the industry, and my manuscript floundered. Two years went by. No new trade sales. Then, a bit of good news. My editor was back in the picture and she remembered my manuscript and started the publication process rolling again. The good news is, four years later, this title “Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg” illustrated by wonderful Michael Allen Austin, is finally coming out with Clarion on May 14, 2014. Although I’ve submitted other manuscripts to Clarion, I haven’t sold another title them yet either. On the other hand, I did sell a new rhyming manuscript to Bloomsbury and acquired a new agent. Being a writer is a fascinating endeavor and hope is always around the corner.

    1. Congratulations, Lori! THanks for sharing this story. Things ground to a halt for BOOKSPEAK, too, for all the same reasons you mentioned. So happy you have a rhyming book coming out with Clarion. They are just tops! I can’t wait to read it. And congrats on a Bloomsbury sale, too!

  14. Laura, thanks for sharing some of your personal valleys in the up and down world of writing. You’re a terrific writer, so it’s hopeful that even someone with your success hits potholes and roadblocks every now and again. And you’re definitely not alone in that regard. Several years ago, just as I was picking up speed, the recession hit and sent me two giant steps back. In fact, just before the economy took a nose dive, Clarion bought one of my rhyming picture book manuscripts. Within months, everything ground to a halt. My editor was let ago, along with many others in the industry, and my manuscript floundered. Two years went by. No new trade sales. Then, a bit of good news. My editor was back in the picture and she remembered my manuscript and started the publication process rolling again. The good news is, four years later, this title “Cowpoke Clyde & Dirty Dawg” illustrated by wonderful Michael Allen Austin, is finally coming out with Clarion on May 14, 2014. Although I’ve submitted other manuscripts to Clarion, I haven’t sold another title them yet either. On the other hand, I did sell a new rhyming manuscript to Bloomsbury and acquired a new agent. Being a writer is a fascinating endeavor and hope is always around the corner.

    1. Congratulations, Lori! THanks for sharing this story. Things ground to a halt for BOOKSPEAK, too, for all the same reasons you mentioned. So happy you have a rhyming book coming out with Clarion. They are just tops! I can’t wait to read it. And congrats on a Bloomsbury sale, too!

  15. It is generous of you to share this, Laura. Thank-you for realizing that our failures can be as great a learning tool as our successes. We are so proud of your accomplishments lately and know it is a clear indicator of more to come.
    I am posting about the very same subject today and tomorrow. Spooky!

    1. What a funny coincidence. I’ll stop by tomorrow to check yours out. It’s good to dispel the myth that certain writers have a golden touch or something. Many people think (and I used to think this in my pre-published days) that once you get a book published, your struggles are largely over. Not true. It’s a tough industry. I love it. It’s worthwhile. I won’t give up. But it’s still tough!

  16. It is generous of you to share this, Laura. Thank-you for realizing that our failures can be as great a learning tool as our successes. We are so proud of your accomplishments lately and know it is a clear indicator of more to come.
    I am posting about the very same subject today and tomorrow. Spooky!

    1. What a funny coincidence. I’ll stop by tomorrow to check yours out. It’s good to dispel the myth that certain writers have a golden touch or something. Many people think (and I used to think this in my pre-published days) that once you get a book published, your struggles are largely over. Not true. It’s a tough industry. I love it. It’s worthwhile. I won’t give up. But it’s still tough!

  17. It IS very generous of you to share this, Laura, and you are not alone. Everyone I speak to in the industry is complaining about publishers not buying, about cutting advances,about tougher terms etc. I too have had my share of bad luck. It’s a very difficult time right now, and on top of it all, authors are expected to do so much more self promotion- which is a big commitment and takes away from our creative/working time. Still, we must keep doing what we love and what we are good at. You have certainly had lots of great successes and recognition this year to spur you on!

    1. So true–this is an industry-wide tough time! Sorry you’re experiencing it, too, and YES on the promotion! You’re right, though. This spate of good luck helps soften the blow of all the nos:>)

  18. It IS very generous of you to share this, Laura, and you are not alone. Everyone I speak to in the industry is complaining about publishers not buying, about cutting advances,about tougher terms etc. I too have had my share of bad luck. It’s a very difficult time right now, and on top of it all, authors are expected to do so much more self promotion- which is a big commitment and takes away from our creative/working time. Still, we must keep doing what we love and what we are good at. You have certainly had lots of great successes and recognition this year to spur you on!

    1. So true–this is an industry-wide tough time! Sorry you’re experiencing it, too, and YES on the promotion! You’re right, though. This spate of good luck helps soften the blow of all the nos:>)

  19. I know we all have ups & downs in every aspect of our life…and I congratulate you on this “up” portion of yours! As someone who has yet to sell ANY book or poem yet…I know it’s not easy. Heck, Jane Yolen told me last year that even she gets rejection slips sometimes! But we just have to keep at it.
    Actually…we don’t HAVE to keep at it. We could stop if we wanted to. If we COULD. But we can’t stop…so we’ll all just keep supporting each other and wait for the “Big Contract” together!

    1. Exactly. Without this wonderful writing community, I probably wouldn’t have stuck it out to this point. I see good things in your future, though, so definitely hang in there!

  20. I know we all have ups & downs in every aspect of our life…and I congratulate you on this “up” portion of yours! As someone who has yet to sell ANY book or poem yet…I know it’s not easy. Heck, Jane Yolen told me last year that even she gets rejection slips sometimes! But we just have to keep at it.
    Actually…we don’t HAVE to keep at it. We could stop if we wanted to. If we COULD. But we can’t stop…so we’ll all just keep supporting each other and wait for the “Big Contract” together!

    1. Exactly. Without this wonderful writing community, I probably wouldn’t have stuck it out to this point. I see good things in your future, though, so definitely hang in there!

  21. Laura,

    You’re awesome! You have no idea how much my kids love A LEAF CAN BE and we’re all waiting for the next one in the series. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this side of the writing life for others to hear. In the meantime, if you’d like to be a judge at Rate Your Story, we’d love to have you. We’re getting more and more poetry PB submissions these days. Also, I’d love to be in the “plan” with you and Susanna, too. I’ll be at ALA in Chicago for the awards banquet and SCBWI Los Angeles this year. 🙂 Pat yourself on the back for a book well done and cheers to whatever comes in the future. Chocolate helps with any toast.

    🙂

    1. Aw, thanks, Miranda! I’ll have to check out Rate Your Story! And would love to meet up with you in person at one or more of those upcoming conferences–yay! And thanks for the encouragement:>) I usually just focus on the good stuff, especially online, as I don’t want to sound whiny about the tough parts of this career. But I just thought I should do a reality check so everyone knows plenty of folks are telling me no, too!

  22. Laura,

    You’re awesome! You have no idea how much my kids love A LEAF CAN BE and we’re all waiting for the next one in the series. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this side of the writing life for others to hear. In the meantime, if you’d like to be a judge at Rate Your Story, we’d love to have you. We’re getting more and more poetry PB submissions these days. Also, I’d love to be in the “plan” with you and Susanna, too. I’ll be at ALA in Chicago for the awards banquet and SCBWI Los Angeles this year. 🙂 Pat yourself on the back for a book well done and cheers to whatever comes in the future. Chocolate helps with any toast.

    🙂

    1. Aw, thanks, Miranda! I’ll have to check out Rate Your Story! And would love to meet up with you in person at one or more of those upcoming conferences–yay! And thanks for the encouragement:>) I usually just focus on the good stuff, especially online, as I don’t want to sound whiny about the tough parts of this career. But I just thought I should do a reality check so everyone knows plenty of folks are telling me no, too!

  23. Thanks for sharing your downs with us. Sometimes when we see other writers succeeding while we are only receiving rejections, we tend to think that the world of writing is…winning or losing„, rejections or acceptances. It helps to know that even the writing lives of successful writers still consist of both!

    1. That’s exactly it, Audrey. I know when I get to see kidlit writer friends in person, even some of the enormously awarded-bestselling-beloved ones that live and work here in the Twin Cities, I am always surprised to learn of the projects they’ve had fall through or get rejected or have dismal sales or whatever. They just don’t publicly announce those things because (I assume) of either embarrassment or not wanting to look whiny. So we do think of them as “successful” writers and wrongly assume that all their projects are successful. But all our lives, whether we’re barely published or well-published, definitely consist of both success and failure.

  24. Thanks for sharing your downs with us. Sometimes when we see other writers succeeding while we are only receiving rejections, we tend to think that the world of writing is…winning or losing„, rejections or acceptances. It helps to know that even the writing lives of successful writers still consist of both!

    1. That’s exactly it, Audrey. I know when I get to see kidlit writer friends in person, even some of the enormously awarded-bestselling-beloved ones that live and work here in the Twin Cities, I am always surprised to learn of the projects they’ve had fall through or get rejected or have dismal sales or whatever. They just don’t publicly announce those things because (I assume) of either embarrassment or not wanting to look whiny. So we do think of them as “successful” writers and wrongly assume that all their projects are successful. But all our lives, whether we’re barely published or well-published, definitely consist of both success and failure.

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