A Ray of Sunshine: When a Writer Has a Good Day (#abna)

beautiful cloudsThe good days for a writer usually revolve around a day when the words flow, the images form, and the plot thickens. It’s our own personal heaven and we tuck ourselves into bed that night with a sense of immense satisfaction. But also as writers, we subject ourselves to constant criticism, as do all artists. We ask for it, we need it, and yet we hate it. Jenn and I have talked plenty about rejection and surviving negative feedback, but this week I want to share a little ray of sunshine that broke through the thick cloudbank of negativity.

Last Tuesday was a good day. No. A great day! I awoke at about 7:30 and in usual form reached for my iPhone and directed Siri, “Check email.” She answered with, “You have 23 emails since yesterday.” I freaked. I’m not one of those people who lets their messages linger. I answer and discard and each night I go to bed with an empty mailbox. Apparently something very bad, or very good, happened while I was traipsing though dreamland. Of course, I assumed the former, don’t we always expect the worst?

Since Robin and Jenn both live on the west coast, I go to bed a good three hours before they do. Sometimes there’s a discussion that ensues after I set my head on the pillow and then I have to catch up in the morning, waiting a frustrating three hours over coffee for the sun to cross their horizon. Okay, that was probably it, I figured. Sure enough, there was a stream of OMG messages between them after they’d waded through the lists of who made the cut in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

Both Jenn and I survived the first round in the competition, better known as 2014ABNA.

Jenn had emailed me a few weeks before the deadline and suggested I enter WIVES OF LUCIFER, saying she was going to enter GRAVE OF HUMMINGBIRDS. I was reluctant at first, tired of the usual dog-and-pony show of submission: rewriting pitches and synopses, proofreading the manuscript, AGAIN, and filling out the required profile. Robin soon chimed in, and with their combined encouragement I decided to give it a shot.

The odds are pretty poor. Amazon stops accepting when they hit the 10,000-submission mark so you need to enter early in order to not get shut out. Jenn and I shared reworked pitches and the required 3-5,000 word excerpt­—proofreading, tweaking and polishing. Heather and Robin offered their eagle eyes for additional read-throughs. A week or so before the deadline, Jenn decided to bail and it took some serious persuading to get her back on task.

But she did, and we waited online together the night of February 16th for the site to open for submissions, with Robin holding our virtual hands. As I mentioned, there is a three-hour time difference between us, so I had to wait until midnight whereas Jenn was working at nine o’clock and probably with a few more functioning brain cells. The website balked and stumbled, or maybe it was us. The formatting was wonky and we had to scramble to clean up our entries, there were a couple of questions we didn’t understand and felt insecure with our answers, but eventually, after exchanging frantic emails, we got the okay, and we were in!

Then I forgot about it and didn’t really expect to make it to the next round.

I went to bed the night before the announcement, figuring I’d check it in the morning. Surprise! Surprise! Back to Tuesday morning. Usually my emails are rejections from agents or notes from editors about something or other not working, so to see something positive blew my mind. We posted our success on Twitter and FB and of course on Writeonsisters. The congratulatory messages came pouring in. It was a trending topic on Twitter at #2014abna and #abna. We read the messages, feeling empathy for those who didn’t make the cut and enthusiasm for those who did. The day got out of control, posting and responding, tweeting and retweeting, accepting the flood of positive messages from everyone, even people I didn’t know.

All I can say is… WOW! It felt great for a change.

The first round narrows the pool from 10,000 to 2,000 spread across five genres. There are currently 383 competitors in my category, not sure about Jenn’s. I’m encouraged by the odds, 383 is a lot better than 10,000, yet the chances of making it to the end are still pretty slim. I probably won’t even get  through the next cut. But, I can hope! And maybe use this “small achievement” to leverage a few agents who’ve had my manuscript for months and keep telling me they’ll get back to me…eventually.

The some of the joy, enthusiasm, and even pride has waned somewhat, but I’m trying to hold onto my optimism. Maybe this will really happen someday and my book(s) will be read by thousands of people. If it feels this good to get this tiny little nod, what’s it like to really make the grade? Again, I can only hope. And that feels darn good.




Author: Caryn McGill

Caryn is a former high school science teacher, school district administrator and adjunct college professor.

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