Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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January 27, 2014

What it Takes to Go the Distance

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.medium_9560558346

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<

29 comments on “What it Takes to Go the Distance”

  1. What a triumphantly beautiful piece, Kathryn. And so true. One of my all-time favorite songs is Constant Craving, by k.d. Lang. Where would we be if not for that? Artists are so lucky.

    Dance, Hon, you've earned it!

  2. Kathryn, the perfect post for me to read first thing on a Monday. First thing before I sit down to write a revised synopsis, double check the list of agents and pubs I am sending out in February, first thing before I dive into the next book. We need you and your inspiration so badly here at WITS. Artists are not only lucky, they are blessed 🙂 I with you great success on your launch TOMORROW !!!

  3. Thanks for your kind words, Florence! I'm lucky to have a Monday spot. I've never been one to dislike Mondays—I've always done work I loved, whenever I could fit it seven days a week, so to me a Monday simply means a fresh page. Unsullied, full of hope. Happy to fill it with something useful to you! Best wishes on your submission journey.

    1. Dear Catherine, Sending you a 'thank you' from Kathmandu is hard today, for some reason. The point: one is NEVER told that it takes years to 'hone your skills...' and it does. Best, Mary Ann Davis

      1. Wow, MDavis, you DID go the distance with that note! Thank you!

        But I agree, it's better to know so you can adjust expectation. At one point of discouragement along my own path I came across a multi-published author who told me the adage she'd heard, so similar to what Martha Graham would tell young dancers: it takes ten years to become a fiction author. At that point, nine years into my journey, I was getting "good" rejections and making significant relationships in the publishing world, and this author told me, "You're doing well. Right on track." That helps, right?

  4. Beautiful post, Kathryn. That's all I've got. Just beautiful!
    Total aside, my vote is for Carreras. 😉

  5. Thank you so much for this post. Lately I've been having negative thoughts about this entire process. The line: "98 percent of agents reject the submissions", is enough to make me cringe and hide in the corner. But I have that perseverance gene, for sure, and am going forward.

  6. I needed to read this post on this day. Thank you, Kathryn. I identify with the agony and fear that I won't finish my wip or no one will want to read it. I like the word you gave my feelings - yearning. Yearning is what keeps me going, persevering to reach my goal. Never thought of it in this way. Your post gave me hope. Now back to writing!

    1. Yes, Temple Couch. If you focus on the industry you can't control, the chance of "failure" is high. But if you aim to satisfy the yearning at the heart of the creative act, the chance for success is high. Sarah Ban Breathnach: "The one thing we do have absolute control over is the quality of our days...how we greet, meet, and complete each daY is our choosing." Then she adds, "We hate to hear this."

  7. Thanks Linda. My cousin, a psychology prof, said that every fifteen minutes or so during my launch party I should take a deep breath, look around, and say, "This is really happening." I did! 🙂

    1. Lorrie, I suspect that's what happened to Harper Lee, though. She'd written the novel she wanted to write, and the yearning was sated. It's too hard to write a novel unless you have a deep desire to, right?

  8. Ah, Catherine, I've felt so bleak for awhile now, living in a world carpeted with rejection letters, industrial wealth and techno-junk.. Thank you for telling us that it's an artist's lot -- and describing the other sides. Best from Nepal...

    1. MDavis I hope you see my comment to you above as well. I know it's discouraging! Surround yourself if you can with believers, and wickedly smart people who are a few steps farther down the path you want to travel. You'll get there!

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