Laura here - Speaking of going the distance, I just wanted to let you know that I'm teaching a course, Submissions that Sell, the in February at Margie Lawson's Writers Academy. Need a query? Need to organize submissions? Covers everything except Synopsis. You can check it out Here.
Now, on to the incredible Kathryn Craft!
A 'Turning Whine into Gold' post from Kathryn Craft
When you set out to write a novel, no one wants to believe it might take a decade or more to hone your skills. You’ll learn faster, you say. Go for it! Reckless innocence is the steppingstone that allows us to launch any grand endeavor. To begin we need only the excitement to try, and the vague sense that “I can do this.”
Yet clinging to innocence will not serve you for long. Along the way, you’ll hear daunting odds about reaching the top. “Agents reject 98 percent of the projects they see, you know, and even when they take on a client, they can’t always sell their work.” “You got a book deal? Ha! Don’t get too excited. Deals get canceled all the time.”
Even if you can hold onto our optimism, cinders on the steep learning curve will scrape you as you fall. Not everyone will like your “voice.” My novel’s protagonist, Penelope Sparrow, must deal with an even more personal attack: despite her obvious talent, not every dance company director has use for a dancer of her height and shape. What do you do with that?
One scene of my novel features a conversation between Penny and the baker on whose car and doughnuts she landed. When Penny says that her body has always been the wrong type for dance, he asks who the standard of success might be in music. She supposes it was Pavarotti. The baker adds, “Yet Rod Stewart has done well for himself.” I love this reminder, from someone not embroiled in the competitive perfectionism within the dance world, that there is room for all types of self-expression. The notion comforts me as a writer. Not everyone needs to love my books—I just need to find a way to get them to the people who will.
When the innocence that sent you skipping merrily down the path to publication gets crushed—and it will get crushed—you’ll reach a make-or-break point: will you keep striving, or hang it up?
If you think that to go the distance you must simply locate that missing perseverance gene, think again. Soldiering on will not be enough. Those bound to succeed will replace the void left by innocence with something more powerful: yearning.
The source of yearning is a mystery, and as individual as a thumbprint. But it is profoundly human, and easily recognized by the soul. Yearning is I want this so bad I can taste it. It’s I’ve come too far, I can’t give up. It’s hunger. It’s success, calling your name.
If you are in your time of yearning, I feel for you—I know how agonizing it can be. Fear feeds at its edges in a way that only more yearning can keep at bay. It’s wonderfully, beautifully hellish.
Yet it is the artist’s way. Embrace it. That tug on your heart and constant challenge to your resolve will make your mountaintop experience all the sweeter. Thank the Great Creator for it, because the arts could not exist otherwise; without its pull the work is just too hard. We create because we yearn for something that does not yet exist.
And this is what will happen, in that moment you’ve been awaiting, that moment conjured by the desire of your heart and the sweat of your brow and the thickening of your skin: release. Release of your novel, yes, but also the release of the yearning, replaced for this moment by that golden charge that comes from adrenaline, relief, long-term effort, and giddy, overwhelming elation.
You are where you’ve longed to be.
You’ll want to suspend the moment so you can fully appreciate the way everything has come together, just so, in its own time, as if this is the way it was always supposed to unfold. And you will revel in the fact that you have honored your truest nature and climbed to the top of your personal mountain.
On this peak where Penelope Sparrow and I now stand as one, at this pinpoint in time, there is no room for fear. Life will get real again tomorrow, when, alone once again, I’ll yearn for a new goal—but right now there is only the foundation of effort beneath us, a universe of possibility above us, and our hearts pounding as one.
Yearning brought us here. Yearning made Penelope Sparrow rise from her hospital bed after a fourteen-story fall immobilized her, and yearning made me write her story. What do you yearn to do? Penelope and I urge you to begin it, and reap its rewards.
The Art of Falling is now in stores! Join Kathryn and her guests for a Virtual Facebook Launch featuring these women’s fiction authors and their new projects: special guest Lisa Verge Higgins, Random Acts of Kindness (ARC); Sharon Short, My One Square Inch of Alaska; Barbara Claypole White, The In Between Hour; Ellen Marie Wiseman, The Things She Left Behind; Therese Walsh, Moon Sisters (ARC); Dale Kushner, The Conditions of Love; Kristin Bair O'Keefe, The Art of Floating (ARC); and Natalia Sylvester, Chasing the Sun (ARC). Giveaways of these books and The Art of Falling all day long—please join us at the event page!
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com. Her debut novel, The Art of Falling, will be released through Sourcebooks 0n January 28. Her second novel, While the Leaves Stood Still, is due from Sourcebooks in Spring 2015. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania literary scene, she loves anything that brings writers together—conferences, workshops, retreats, and blogs like Writers in the Storm. She also blogs at The Blood-Red Pencil and at her personal blogs, The Fine Art of Visiting and Healing Through Writing. Connect with Kathryn on Facebook and Twitter.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjfrig/9560558346/">Mike F.</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin<