Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 1, 2014

Writer Inspiration: Climbing Over The Brick Wall

My favorite quote is from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture (if you haven’t read that small book, you should - it’s incredibly inspiring).

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know a bit of my publishing story:

  • 15 years
  • 413 rejections
  • 3 books written before I got an agent and sold.

Last Saturday, I received Romance Writers of America® highest award – A RITA® for my first published book, The Sweet Spot. I don't even have words to describe that experience, but for me it was the pinnacle.

People ask me how I was able to keep going all those years. I usually tell them that I’m too dumb to quit, then I laugh. I don’t talk about the real reason. I’ve decided to share my story here, with you, in hopes that it will help someone else facing challenges.

In my early college years, I was in a challenging RN program. I could handle the bookwork, but being the youngest in my class, I didn’t have the maturity to handle the emotional side of dealing with dying patients. Their suffering terrified me.

I wanted to get out, but I had nowhere to go. My home was a middle-class battleground; my hard-working mother and my loveable alcoholic dad were divorcing. The home I knew was collapsing.

So when I met a guy who liked me, I went with him. We eloped after we'd known each other a total of ten days. He took me to his house – an idyllic log cabin on a river in upper Michigan. We were married in front of a roaring fire, with the snow coming down outside. Sounds romantic huh?

There were other cabins nearby, but summer people owned them. It was January. We had a wood stove for heat, but couldn’t afford propane for the stove or the washer and dryer. The mailbox was five miles away, the town ten. We had one car. No phone. No cell phones back then – no computers. He believed that women shouldn’t work; that was a man’s job. So I stayed home all day, cleaning, teaching myself to cook in a Dutch oven and washing our blue jeans with a floor brush.

When he started hitting me, I thought it was my fault. After all, I didn’t even know how to balance a checkbook. But when I got better at all those things, the hitting didn't stop. For no reason I could discern, at times my sweet husband would disappear, to be replaced by a stranger with angry eyes. I hid bruises, walked lightly and tried very, very hard not to conjure that stranger. I didn’t tell anyone. My family and friends all thought I was blissfully happy. And I worked hard to hide the truth behind pretty curtains.

A book saved my life.

We went to town once a week on Saturday to do grocery shopping and laundry, and every week, I went to the library. I checked out the biggest books I could find, so I wouldn’t run out before the next Saturday. Something clicked when I read Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. I realized I could take control of my own life.

Suddenly, I saw my paths clearly. I could stay and die, or leave and live. I guess I needed to hit bottom, because it gave me something to push off of. I decided to live.

Don’t call Oprah. That was long ago, and I have a wonderful life and a 27 year-and-still-going-strong marriage to Alpha Dog.

Over the years, I’ve come to cherish the lessons I learned in that cabin. I've kept the vow to never again let things 'just happen' to me. The experience showed me that no matter how many mistakes I made, I knew how to pick myself up and start over. That time in the cabin taught me to meet life, head on.

Five, ten, even fifteen years isn't so long to wait for something you want. If it’s something you really want – don’t let the walls get in your way.

Here's my acceptance speech.

Write on - Peace out.



51o2EYOdqVLToday is the release of the next in my Widow's Grove series, The Reasons to Stay!

Romantic Times 4 Stars!

Where she belongs?

Free spirit Priscilla Hart doesn't get tied down, to anyone or any place. Then she arrives in Widow's Grove and meets her half brother. The ten-year-old tough guy has no one else but her. So Priss stays—for now.

But her sexy new landlord, Adam Preston, is interfering with her ideas. He's everything Priss normally steers clear of—committed, stable and no rebellious urges in sight. As opposite as they are, each conversation, each touch, each kiss they share feels so right. Can a little gangster-wannabe, an irresistible "nice guy" and an odd assortment of new friends make Priss want to stay for good?


103 comments on “Writer Inspiration: Climbing Over The Brick Wall”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Laura. You are so brave and deserve every bit of success you've earned. I'm thrilled that you've reached your pinnacle with the RITA Award!

  2. Thank you for this, Laura. You are an amazing woman and I admire your tenacity and strength. Not everyone has that. You have shown that climbing that brick wall is possible. Congratulations, not just on getting over the wall, but on achieving the RITA!

    1. Vicky, I just want people to know that they can do a lot more than they think they can. Another quote I love is, 'What would you attempt if you knew you couldn't fail?'

      Ask yourself that, then go do it!

  3. Congratulations. I wept as I read this because it was a total new view of you and a wonderful one at that. Keep writing and spreading your version of happiness.

  4. Laura, thank you for sharing your inspiring story. I'm sitting here in tears, even though it happened was long ago and your life is better. Growing up with an alcoholic, too, it understand how it can drive us in the wrong direction. Your remind us that sometimes life isn't easy and it deals us a pretty crappy hand, but if you dig deep the power to make it change is there. And good people are out there to help us along the way. Especially in the writing community, where we support each other through good and bad news.

    Your Rita win is well deserved. I'm sure you're still pinching yourself! You're someone who writes from their heart and soul and that's what makes your work so special. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Sharon. I believe everyone has a lot more power and strength than they think they do - and we'll never know that if we're not tested. Carpe that diem!

  5. Congratulations, Laura. I'm thankful that you found that book that day at the library and the strength to get out of such a terrible situation. You are an inspiration to us all.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, but I'm always cognizant that I put myself into the situation! Just glad I learned when I did - it truly changed my life.

  6. Congratulations!!! What an accomplishment. Thank you for telling your story; it's not only true what you said about brick walls, it's encouraging seeing someone so deserving be recognized for their hard work. Perseverance pays off - sometimes in ways we never expected!

  7. So proud of you and all that you have accomplished. You continue to be an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing this story.

  8. Ah, Laura. I am pleased that my last comment on a blog (due to my blog vacation) will be this one. I debated. I already said goodbye until September so no one should expect to hear from me. But then I saw the WITS Friday post was from you and I thought it would be fitting ... my last post was about you ... my last comment is to you.

    Ditto to all that has been and will be said. I believe that strength is forged in pain and that our measure of joy is often equaled to our measure of sadness. What makes us who we are is how we use the lessons the pain and sadness teach us.

    We will meet on the other side of that wall 🙂 See you in September.

    1. 'strength is forged in pain and that our measure of joy is often equaled to our measure of sadness.' Bravo, Florence - you said it better than I. Have a wonderful vacation!

  9. You made it! Fifteen years isn't long to wait if you really want something. I think you're right and I'm so glad you made it. Congratulations on your RITA.

    1. Thanks Stephanie - when I got discouraged (like we all do) I remembered why I started writing to begin with - and it was about the writing, not the selling. I'd still be writing whether I'd finally sold or not!

      Best job in the world, isn't it?

  10. You are my daily inspiration (not to mention pointy end of a boot 😉 )!

  11. Laura, your story is inspiring and reminds me that when we meet a person we cannot tell what they have lived through, survived, overcome in order to be the person they are. We each have a story, a tale of the obstacles and challenges and rewards that paved the path to today. You're a strong, lovely, loving woman and I'm honored to count you as a friend. Thanks for being you!

  12. Laura,
    Those quotes about The Brick Wall - so important for me today. I will definitely check Randy out.
    Thanks for sharing your story, and your books with us. Congrats on the RITA!! You Go, Girl!!

  13. I was one of the lucky ones who got to watch your acceptance of your Rita. It was funny heart felt and provided a much needed reminder to keep chugging along despite "the walls". Thank you so much- it was the high light of my evening.
    I also want to say thank you for sharing your story of abuse. My husband was a child of a very abusive father and the ramifications last a long long time. I'm proud to say the cycle of abuse stopped with the monster he called dad. His mother had a few marriages after and deals with her own demons on a daily basis- I'm so pleased you found your way out and to your Alpha Dog!!!

    1. I'm so sorry your husband went through that, Stacey, and I know that you too are dealing with his upbringing in how he reacts to things every day. He's luck to have you. Thank you.

  14. Congratulations on your RITA win! And a special congratulations for having the courage to get out of that cabin, and tell your story today!

    Christi Corbett

  15. Congratulations Laura. You are an inspiration with both your story and your tenacity. I am an avid follower of WITS and the sage advice and encouragement you and the other bloggers offer. Great job!

    1. Thanks Lori - so glad that all our posts here help - wouldn't it be sad if all the pain we go through to learn things, only benefited us?

  16. Laura, thank you for reminding us that the challenges we work through should make us stronger, so that we can climb those brick walls. And as always, thank you for being an amazing inspiration!

  17. You already know I'm proud of you, both for writing this post AND getting out the cabin. You have taught me that success is best measured in inches, not miles. Thanks for taking the journey with me, friend!

  18. Bless your heart - I can't imagine speaking to a roomful like that but you did EXCELLENT. My husband and I just watched the video together. Many congratulations and may it be the start of many, many more awards.

    1. Are you kidding, Debbie?!!! I was completely freaked out! I was terrified of a wardrobe malfunction, and drooling all over myself, tripping and knocking my teeth out...you name it!

  19. Laura, I remember the night you met with the Writers In The Storm gang for the first time. We were looking for "one" new member. Both you and Fae impressed us so much, we had to have you both! You turned out to be not only a phenomenal writer but a great friend and I can't think of anyone who deserves that Rita more. Love you bundles!

    1. How well I remember that night, Sharla - I was SO nervous! Thank God you guys decided to take me on . . . I wouldn't be where I am if not for you all - and everyone knows it! Love you!

  20. Laura, thank you for sharing your story. It took a lot of courage to climb those walls, and you deserve all the happiness that's coming your way now. It's been wonderful getting to know you this year. Congratulations again on your Rita and on your new release today!

    1. Thank you, Annette. We all face challenges - this one was of my own making! As my ex-MIL used to say, 'Too soon old, too late smart'!

  21. Congratulations not just on your win, which is of course wonderful, but also on your strength, resilience and victory over the tough times.

  22. Encouragement comes at the most amazing times and from the most unexpected places - your words were what many of us needed to hear. Congratulations on a well-earned and deserved award!

    1. I like the saying 'When the student is ready, the teacher will come.' That happens to me every day, Wendy - Now, if I can just stay open to hearing that teacher....

  23. Laura, thank you for sharing your personal story. Your will and fortitude are truly inspiring. And congratulations on winning the Rita award. I am so happy for you! 🙂

  24. Congratulations! Not only on the award, but on being able to come to that realization and live your life. "Never give up. Never surrender." ~~ Galaxy Quest

  25. Congratulations Laura!

    Your story is inspiring. How beautiful you look making your speech! Bless you with continued success!


  26. Congratulations on your much deserved RITA and your career success!! I'm so happy for you and you're an inspiration to all of us gonnabes. Thank you, Laura!

  27. You inspire all of us newbie writers with your tenacity and perseverance! We all need to get out of that cabin we put ourselves in and climb that wall! You and the dress are gorgeous!!

  28. Wow this was right on time for me to send to my 20 year old daughter who called me this morning crying because she has recently moved back to New York trying to live out her dreams and walls seem to be everywhere. What an inspiration!

    1. Give her a hug for me, Pizzos, and tell her there's nothing worth more than her dreams - the easy ones aren't worth much. It's the really hard ones that give us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, right?

  29. Laura, I am somewhat familiar with your story (413? really?), having had the privilege of talking to you by phone years ago during our time with RWA-WF. Still, your story has moved me to tears and came at just the right time. I've been so overwhelmed with my day job that I've been finding myself uninspired when it comes to my writing. But those walls you mention....well it reminded me of how much I want this. Not just seeing the first book published (August 19 is just around the corner!) but the next, and the next....you get what I'm trying to say. Thank you for mustering up the courage to dig deep down inside and share your heart! <3

  30. Wow. You've just made my wall seem only one brick high. thanks so much for sharing your story. 413 rejections and now a RITA? Talk about going from one end of the spectrum to the other! Congratulations!

  31. Wow! Just Wow! I am always at the back of the train, but I couldn't stop myself from congratulating you Laura! You are an inspiration! Hugged by Nora Roberts? You must've been glowing for days. How exciting! We don't know each other, but we have a special friend in common, that of dear Jenny Hansen. I am so happy for you Laura. You deserved this! Again, congratulations! 🙂

  32. Playing catch up after a family vacation in New Mexico the first week of this month, Laura. I'm so glad I stumbled across this. I knew you'd won and sent FB congrats, but your story is so uplifting, both to writers and to women stuck in an unsafe situation. Loved seeing your acceptance speech. Truly you're an inspiration.

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