Guess what, today’s my Birthday, It’s also my 15th Anniversary as a Published Author. Like my new book, Pack Light: Thoughts for the Journey, here’s a post that didn’t make the cut, about how growing discomfort, prayer and a few other things, launched my writing career. Enjoy!
At the age of 24, I sent off a package that would change my life. I entered the Black Entertainment Television’s First Time Writer’s Contest with my novella Family Affairs. A story about single Mom, Faye Hicks and charismatic Doctor Jacob Cove. Words can’t truly express what a glorious time that was. Here’s some things I learned along the way that I wanted to share with you. AND THEN….the rules for the giveaway. What’s an Anniversary AND A Birthday without gifts! Enjoy.
Adversity Abounds, What Are You Going to Do About It? – If you’ve listened to any interviews of mine whatsoever, you’ll know that I was in a state of adversity that helped me decide I needed to do something:
1. Flunking college (math for liberal arts is no joke for the creative set, consult a tutor)
2. Depressed over relational rejection (about a boy, enough said)
3. Uncertain about what future options/plans -what to do, which way to go – standard issue for college students everywhere
I was always what you call the hit or miss child. I tried a lot of different things including working for government almost three separate times. It wasn’t exciting, yes it was a job and a steady paycheck but it seemed stifling. I will also be very candid and tell you that my parents hard work and leniency on so much pressure to find something and do it forever, was important in letting me explore and find the right fit. I don’t think this is always possible depending on different family situations but it was a wonderful blessing that I don’t take for granted. I also mention this because some parents grow frustrated, it’s important to note that the “hit or miss” child is one sign of the creative set. On the surface, they SEEM to have an inability to stick with things and a deep desire to try LOTS of different things means it’s going to be a long road of discovery toward what they really want to do. And even that may last only a little while and it also continues into adulthood. I also mention this so you can exhibit patience with your own creative-Jack or Jackie-of- all-trades-children and try to give them these experiences early on so they have a lot of opportunities to try this and that, it’s the only real way to find what will/will not stick.
Prayer and a willingness to move due to discomfort -Out of flunking, rejection, even dealing with disability, which as I aged has been no picnic, I prayed and prayed for a change. I was uncomfortable in my present state. It was only after praying and asking God for “something else” that the contest presented itself to me. My favorite pastime seemed to be surfing the net then, in college, you know researching for my term papers LOL, but through that, of course I would find my new path but God placed it in a place I was already “on”- and this was before Google. I wasn’t looking for the contest and I was rarely was into writing for publication at all. The contest was there and I was crying when I saw it. IT SPOKE TO ME. I knew it was FOR ME. Even before entering it, I believed that I’d win. I was willing to work, not only to get the book done but AFTER the call, I had to research all I could about marketing and promotion. I say I wanted a change and when I got it, I then had to put the time in to make it work.
Belief that I could (because God was in it) but I also needed a little more preparation – I’d have to do some research. At that time, I’d never written a book in my life. Of course I’ve written papers and articles for the Internet magazines (also before they became “Blogs” mind you) and once I set out, a full length book just kind of came together very rapidly. The other reason I knew it was God, because it all fell into place so quickly and the story moved fast. I would read over Family Affairs at times and I’d even ask out loud, “Who wrote this?” I couldn’t believe how good I felt about my own work of prose. I liked it; I hoped others would like it, too. I wrote and finished the story in record time because the story contest deadline was looming. For 125 pages (the approx. length of a novella) I was a writing fool. I got it done and I learned all I could about story, plot, voice, etc., to make my story as great as it could be. I wanted to win and I believed that I could.
Professionalism on Paper? – I was 23 when I entered the contest. Professionalism was going to be the only thing to represent me and I had to show that on paper.
That’s where this wonderful book called Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, came in handy. To this day even though the book is pretty obsolete, I loved this book. I love the way it showed me plain and simple how to format the manuscript AND the cover letter that would accompany it. This kind of “first foot in the door” presentation and not simply a good story, were also very important. I purchased the book and I did exactly what it said to do. Please note, as I said, this book is obsolete as nowadays, everything is submitted electronically and formatting means different things in our present time of all things eBooks and indie publishing but the gist of what I’m saying remains: to consult the industry standard and get it done right!
I remember using my inkjet printer and I remember that I printed out my manuscript WITHOUT PAGE NUMBERS. The format book said to use page numbers. I painstakingly put every single sheet back through the old inkjet and got the page numbers on my manuscript.
I let go. After preparing my package, I typed out my labels, this was a big deal and I actually have good handwriting but I wanted to shine. I prayed over the package as I sealed it away. I even laid hands on my stacked pages, bound together by a rubber band. I dated the letter my birthday for good luck and I took it to the post office, smiling at the cashier who had no idea, a real masterpiece was going to be traveling through their machines and carried to the BET offices by their mail carriers. I’m 23 remember, I think I’m the greatest. You have to let go also because I know personally those who fret over every word, every chapter but never reach the end. You should be concerned about writing the best you can, but to a point, but your work, no matter what it is, has to be given the opportunity to see the light of day. I wanted that for my work so I had to let it go if that was going to happen. Your work will always need editing. I view writing like decorating. Its NEVER really done but you still permit people to sit in your living room don’t you? You make it the best you can and you let others see it at some point.
Finally, I told no one. I told my parents about sending off my book but I didn’t say a whole lot more about the storyline, my writing plans overall (likely because I didn’t have any) nor the actual contest details. I simply worked on it every single hour I was not studying for school or in classes. Keeping it a secret simply was about keeping my new venture turned dream, to myself. I didn’t want any negativity and honestly, I didn’t really know there would be, but I also didn’t want people asking me about it all the time. I just knew that any negative comment would start the self-doubt reel to playing in my head. And there was something special about my little secret. I was so happy that I’d even tried, I started and I finished something and I wanted no one to steal my joy.
It would be months before the call came. It was awesome. I was the winner with my trip to NYC for the luncheon to meet other authors, I mean I met Rochelle Alers, that was awesome, I got my small advance, a contract and publication of Family Affairs in a real book! On the phone, I was professional and eerily calm, but laughing and pure elation ensued as soon as I hung up. I’m happy to be an author. Yes, there are difficult periods, there’s even rejection and at times from fellow authors, social groups to other industry professionals within the publishing arena, the words have even failed to keep coming in various bouts of what I call “Lazy” or “Disobedience” Block, but what an amazing, fruitful journey from 23 when I saw the contest and decided to make a move, all the way to 40 where I remain a published author with new work to debut to this day. The triumphs abound in every aspect of my life, including the validation that winning gave me and it begin to bleed into my math where I eventually passed and went on to complete my degree program.
I’m gonna keep going as I’m certain 40 and beyond won’t be so bad either.
Go Make Your Move!
Ready to Win?!
I’m gifting three eBook copies of my new release Pack Light: Thoughts for the Journey, which debuted this month.
PRIZE INSTRUCTIONS & RULES
- A random winner will be selected from anyone who makes a comment on this post, until midnight Friday, October 21, 2016
- US/International entrant are permitted to participate
- Make a comment or ask a question about the post on anything related to the subject matter
- Be certain to leave your e-mail address in the comments to receive notice IF you win. I will NOT select anyone who does not have an e-mail address.
- Leaving your e-mail address does NOT mean you will be added to my newsletter. You will NOT be auto added. You can sign yourself up directly at Teegarner.com.
- eBooks will be a gift through Amazon thus you will want to ensure you have Kindle reader device or FREE app to enjoy Pack Light: Thoughts for the Journey.
- *Only eBooks are being given away at this time. The print version will be released very soon.
- No comments/potential winners will be eligible if received after the Midnight deadline on 10/21 EST.
- Must be 18 years old or older to enter.