Sunday, June 6, 2010

Julie, Julia, Amy and Jane

The last four days I have watched about ten movies. I sort of lost count, and I even stopped watching two other ones after ten or so minutes, and there was one that I wish I had turned off after ten minutes. My husband is away for two weeks, so I thought I would watch all the chick flicks, dramas and anything in between that he wouldn't be interested in while he was gone. His favorite movies are Tombstone and Sparticus. Cowboys and gladiators--I guess you can say they technically are period dramas, but not my kind, although Val Kilmer was fabulous as Doc Holiday. :0)

So in the line up tonight was Julie and Julia. I had a friend from work tell me that I really needed to see it, so I did. And I felt a little exposed. Both Julie and Julia were at pivotal life stages and each feeling a little useless and lost. They threw themselves into something they had a passion for and after a lot of struggle and pain, their dreams were realized.

It was a sweet movie, but it left me with an ache in my stomach and also left me feeling a little guilty, so I'm letting you all in on a secret. I've told no one. Until now.

I heard back from a publisher a couple of weeks ago--maybe even three weeks now. The publishers who do Pride and Prejudice fanfic. The one I was grooming my book for. I was so excited to hear back from them that I read the email first thing when I got to work. NOT a good idea.

The editor told me that my writing was "weak" along with a few other things--she absolutely hated the title. I actually felt sick to my stomach and did my best not to cry for five whole hours while at work. I somehow got through my day. I was so embarrassed and devastated that I didn't even want to tell my husband. Isn't that pitiful? He immediately knew that something was wrong. I did my best to act like everything was normal, but that darn man knows me so well. I couldn't get the words out without crying and I felt like there was a massive "L" burned into my forehead (Loser). I couldn't get the words out. After he made sure that it wasn't life threatening and that it wasn't something he had done, he told me that he would wait until I was ready to tell him.

How many movies or novels for that matter deal with this exact issue--someone in authority or with expertise squashing someone's dreams? I should have a thick skin and I should keep plugging away until someone believes in me. Or I should go back and look at what I have written and figure out how to make it better. That would be what a true heroine would do. But I'm a sensitive writer with paper thin skin, who was so pumped up and admittedly high by the literally hundreds and hundreds of reviews from everyday people who said they loved my book and wanted to read it over and over again. I just wasn't prepared for anything else. The disillusioned heroine stumbles.

I haven't looked at my book or written a word on my new one since. My real life plot is so frustratingly predictable--our heroine licks her wounds and needs to somehow believe in herself again. I'm actually embarrassed to admit that one little email did that to me. So completely infantile. Meanwhile, I keep getting reviews from complete strangers telling me that this was the best P&P fanfic they have ever read, and I don't know what to do with the information. Part of me wants to forward each and every one of them to the publisher and the other half of me wants to yell at them to stop sending me raving reviews because it just doesn't matter.

So tonight Julie and Julia each kicked my butt a little. Julia Child worked years and years on her cookbook before she found someone willing to publish it. And she kept cooking the whole time. And little Julie cooked her little heart out every night after work while blogging about it for an entire year, encountering great disappointment, kitchen disasters and even marital troubles. I've only been at this for a few months. My kitchen and marriage is still intact. I have nothing to complain about.

I thought about the one thing that got people's dander up with my book--the fact that I let Elizabeth question herself and lose some confidence after she got kicked out of Kent. I had a few people really let me know how out of character that was for our dear Lizzy. But I heartily disagreed and now I think that I will cut myself the same slack and have the same patience with myself. I just needed a little time.

All this to say, I promise to get back to my newest book this week. I will tell my husband what happened when he calls tomorrow night, and I will not yell at the reviews as they still trickle in, but I will also try to figure out just what was weak about my work. I will also email the agent that I had contact with (who was going to poke around and see if she could find anyone interested) and see if she is still interested.

Thank you Julie and Julia for plugging away, for doing what you love with all your heart and for my little butt kicking. And thank you Jane for not giving up on getting your work published two-hundred years ago when it literally was a man's world. I'm in awe of you, your wit and your elegant way of making us fall in love with your characters over and over again. I hope you all will forgive me for stumbling.


  1. It must be frustrating but don't give up! I've written a JAFF that has only been seen by four eyes (and I am including my own LOL). Best of luck.

  2. Ah well. You live and you learn, and you become a better writer for all of it. Hang in there!

  3. I wondered why you hadn't been dear girl, you are so much like Carrie it's funny, so I will give you the same pep-talk I would give her. Your work is wonderful and "The" publisher is full of __it! I have read 100's if not 1000's of FanFic and your's is one of the best! I bought one "Published" work that I threw away, literally, because it was trash, so much for the publisher opinion! And remember, the first publisher Jane's Father took P&P to, didn't even bother to read it, and she had to rewrite it years later to get it to the wonderful book we all love so much.

    So, the moral of the story is...keep on writing, buff & shine it up, think about the title and see if you can come up with something that is more easily identifiable with P&P and see what you come up with. Then....when it is published, I will buy it!

    Now, wipe those tears and get back to writing! :)

  4. Thanks ladies! I'm over it--mostly :0) Still haven't told my husband because someone else was in the room when he called me. I'm such a chicken.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I should have gone to you weeks ago. Thanks for sticking around!

  5. Amy,
    I wanted to stop by and say 'I understand'. Completely. I have been on the same journey. It is not easy. I had a curator tell me my work was 'too cute' a couple years back, and it crushed me. (I might just add.. there was a bidding war on the 'too cute' piece he was referring too!)He gave me the motivation to improve and dig deeper. One of those building character moments.
    Don't stop, don't give up. It is worth the struggle, I promise. I am still there, struggling. I just had the paper do an article about me. It was a milestone that I thought would never come. You know one of the things I told her? I said I needed 'to stop being afraid of failure. That the only person I need to be afraid of letting down is myself'. The only way to truly inspire people and communicate with them is if you are being true to yourself. And it is obvious that you are inspiring Amy. So don't let this get you down. We are all here cheering you on. This will only make you stronger, better, more inspiring. Cross my heart.

    By the way... I am back again... life over here is crazy!!! Solo art show.. another trip... end of school year etc. Sheesh. Missed you! xo

  6. Dearest Carrie,

    Thanks for your story and for the encouragement. I'm such a wienie! Why do us creative types have to be so sensitive? It's part of the package, I guess.

    I am really beginning to feel that maybe I should have my second book done before I move forward with an agent or finding a publisher. The two books are so connected that they both should be a package deal, yet they are both so different. My fanfic has limited publishing options, but my new book will be of interest to a wider audience, since it's basically a romantic comedy in novel form. I also think that I can go back and look at my fanfic with new eyes and see what I can do to improve it.

    Meanwhile, I promise to keep blogging about my journey and getting some new stuff up for all of you to read.

    Thanks again--all of you--for sticking with me! I'm touched and humbled...

  7. Oh, Amy, I sense your profound disappointment and the hurt that this rejection has inflicted on your tender heart. I am praying that the God of all comfort will minister healing to you. And I hope that you will remember who you are in Him. Ultimately, that's all that matters.

    Now, as to the rest...
    This is a speed bump not a traffic barrier. Do what you do best, write! Your story was loved by the people who are most likely to buy the books that your editor is trying to sell. We are the target market for this particular niche. The readers at AHA are the severest critics and the most outspoken readers with their constructive critiques and lavish praises. You had what, 1300 people reading every time you posted. Add that to your readers at other sites, and that number probably grows to around 1600+. I would call that a nice market sampling. Organize some of the more reflective comments that were posted and use them to your advantage in marketing yourself.

    Yes, rewrite if you need to, pad if you need to, add some spice if you need to (you can do that without being too graphic, you know.) And change the title if you need to -- you had given that some thought previously. The editor was just giving you information that you had already considered. I think your readership actually talked you out of the title change.

    So, my dear, take some time for self-pity, pout a little if you need to, but then GET TO WORK! We are all on your side.

  8. How sweet you are, Gayle! Thanks for the encouragement. I am more and more certain that I should finish my second book before I continue on looking for publishers or agents. Hopefully I will be able to go back and fine tune "Speak Not..." which I am thinking about renaming "A Rush of Blackbirds."

    And thank all of you for sticking with me! I am really honored and somewhat humbled that you all are still checking in on me. I'll try to make it worth your while.