Yesterday, I made internet news! Minnesota mom of four driven to conquer the world of indie publishing
While doing the interview with Ken Korczak, he kept coming back to the question, "But why did it take so long to publish?" After all, I'd gotten the idea for Elevator Girl in 2003, began writing it in 2007, finished it in 2008, and now it's 2013!
When it comes to writing, I think of myself as a late-bloomer. As a kid, I always journaled, wrote poetry, attempted writing a short story or two, but never really considered it as a viable option; nor those around me. How many times did I hear as a kid, "You can't make a living as a writer. Be a teacher. We always need teachers. They don't make much money either, but it's more than a writer." My dad would tell me, "You've got to survive. You need a job to pay the bills." or "College is nice, but ultimately you want to settle down." (This is why my essay Big Fish, Small Pond is so personally profound for me, because ultimately my dad and I were able to understand where the other was coming from ideologically.)
I chose to write a romantic comedy as a Jedi-mind trick to tackle the gargantuan task of writing a novel. If I wrote about a lighter topic, I could ease up on the expectation that it had to be brilliant. (This trick worked, by the way.) But then, once I had written my book, I found that I really did love "going the distance" - beyond journaling and short pieces - to writing novels.
It took me a long time to decide that I wanted to publish for many reasons.
1. SAHM, I am. Since December, 2001, I have been a stay-at-home mom; my kids were my focus. (Before kids I was an English teacher at the Berlitz in Brno.) This novel-writing was really an awakening for me that looked like this: "Whoa, I just wrote a whole novel!" and "Now what do I do with that?"
2. An interlude in girls leadership. In 2009, I created and ran a girls leadershipprogram in my community through our local Women of Today chapter. I am so proud of this work. Girls' lives have literally been changed because of this program. The University of Minnesota Leadership Minor helped us develop the program, and I am so grateful to them. Today, this program is now managed under PeacemakerResources and serves girls from our entire northwestern Minnesota region. In September 2013, I stepped away from my administrative leadership role to pursue my writing career.
3. Period of personal growth. In 2010, I participated in LeaderImpact, a leadership program for adults available through the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. This experience made me get really intentional about how I want to show up in the world. I recognized that I wanted, and was needing, balance in my life. I spent so much time volunteering, my husband said, "If you are working so much, why don't you get paid?" This was the birth of my business Red Shoes Writing Solutions. And it was my perfect solution: I was able to work from home, still attend to my family, continue to explore my writerly path, and (to my husband's delight) make some money.
4. The publishing world is changing at a break-neck pace. Five years ago, self-publishing was a really gutsy thing to do and I wasn't sure if I was willing to take the risk. On the other hand, the traditional publishing route seemed so daunting and arduous. My goal is to put my book out in the world for readers to enjoy, move on to the next project, and continue developing as a writer.
5. Money. Last I checked, being a stay-at-home mom doesn't bring in much of an income. I simply couldn't pay for publishing. Now that I have a business, this has become a more viable option. Up until now, my greatest commodity to barter has been my time.
6. I finally know what I want. These past five years I have been reading, watching and learning about the publishing industry. I have found, what I call, "the sweet spot in publishing" for me. I love the idea of retaining my rights as an author, but still getting the benefit of working with professionals. They know they're stuff, they deserve to get paid. I'm a professional, I am worthy of getting paid.
7. I'm a better writer. Also, I have taken writing courses through Writer'sDigest, Algonkian Writers Conference, the Loft Literary Center, Romance Writers of America (for writing a query letter and synopsis, not for, um..the "romance.") I have attended meet-the-author gatherings and learned from well-known authors such as William Kent Krueger, Lorna Landvik, Mary Casanova, John Rosengren, Lauraine Snelling, Michael Neff, Robert Bausch, Ellen Hart, Carl Brookins, and Erin Downing (a.k.a. Erin Soderberg). Because of these workshops and these authors sharing their wisdom and experience, I'm a better writer. Having more experience has built my confidence. (Here's a big shout-out to my wonderful local library and to the Northwest Regional Library for bringing many of these talented authors right to my town!)
8. I know my themes. Over the course of the last five years, I have honed in on my values and identified what I want to talk/write about. These values are: empowerment, positivity, authenticity, and passion. I just re-visited my mission statement and revised it to say, "I commit to showing up with passion and intention to create and inspire positive change in the world."
9. I'm anxious to start the next project. I have another romantic comedy in the works about an etiquette consultant who is Catholic. So, between Amy Vanderbilt and Jesus, my character thinks she's an expert and authority (i.e. know-it-all) about everything. But the project I'm REALLY excited about is a novel/screenplay called "New Prague" about my own personal hypothetical: What if my Czech husband suddenly died. What would I do (an American) if I moved back to Czech Republic with our four children and began a new life?
So there you have it.
But now, I am ALL in!