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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Overcoming Inertia

I thought long and hard about what I’d talk about in this guest spot, and finally my husband suggested I talk about the life of a struggling writer and how you should never give up, so I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

My life as a writer started two and a half years ago when the real estate industry and I parted ways by way of a lay-off. Once the euphoria of being “free” wore off and the realization that I needed a new job set in, I did the job-hunting thing. No luck. No one was hiring in that field. So, six months later, and with my husband’s support, I decided to “get serious” about my writing. I’d scribbled down stories and books for years since the fifth grade and always wanted to be a writer. The only problem was, I didn’t have a clue. None. Being a writer is much more than dropping words on paper or banging them into a computer.

The first thing I did was enter what I considered a worthy first manuscript into a few RWA-sponsored contests. The mindset of an early writer is very naïve and pompous. I envisioned this book winning all sorts of awards and accolades, then I’d be set.

Fast forward a couple of months and the results of those contests came in, marked up in red, comments everywhere saying “nice voice but needs rewritten.” Finally, after many tears and coming to the realization I didn’t know everything, I bid goodbye to that book and finished another, determined to “show them.” Sometimes, criticism of one’s work is the best motivator. I joined a critique group and learned more stuff.

The second novel did much better. I’d learned a bit of the craft of writing, did some research on how to better my writing, etc. Never, ever think you know all there is to writing, because you don’t, know matter how many successes you have. This book actually finaled in contests. Confidence surged in.

I wrote another book, this one in a totally new genre I’d never attempted before: paranormal. It was the most fun novel I’d ever written to that point. Contest judges liked it and it finaled in four contests during the next year or so, but even though I’d had requests for partials and fulls on it, no one wanted to take it on, which is more disheartening that a flat, standard rejection because they’ve actually read the books. Depression set in during the fall of ’08.

I had no job, no money of my own, no book contracts. The only thing I had for my hard work was a pile of rejection letters. I kept sending my books out into the world, but the fun had been diminished. I turned my attention to writing short stories in an effort to keep writing, keep working on the craft. Fall in the Midwest inspires me like no other season and I knocked out a short in September, containing paranormal elements, but it was a trip to a local Penzey’s spice shop that truly inspired me. I penned another short, this time about magic and food.

They both went through the critique group with flying colors (after many revisions) so I shut my eyes and submitted them both to e-presses. Big time scary moment and I truly expected another rejection. In a few weeks, I’d gotten my first “revise and re-submit” letter from one of the publishers. So, I did, totally excited that someone thought so much of my writing they’d ask me to do this. A few days before Thanksgiving, I was offered my first contract from the other publisher, and I’m pleased to say FOODIE’S GUIDE TO KITCHEN MAGIC released from Lyrical Press in May of this year. The other short THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA PRITCHART will release in September of this year with The Wild Rose Press.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, those two books that did well on the contest circuit? Both will be published in the next year. NOT JUST MAKE BELIEVE comes out in December of this year with Desert Breeze Publishing and THE ART OF FANG SHUI will release in January of 2010 with Eirelander Publishing. Please see my website http://www.sandrasookoo for further details.

Long story short? Even though it seems sometimes that the road to publication is a long, dark, depressing journey, you can’t give up. No matter how many people say no, it only takes one yes to change your life and your perception. If you have the drive and determination and an active imagination, you will succeed, as long as you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and work hard for it. If you have the opportunity to snag a good critique partner, do it. They’re an invaluable help in the journey, and mine tells me when I’m not being honest with myself and pushes me to be more than I think I can be.

Am I perfect? Heck no! There’s still much to learn in this business and I still make mistakes in my writing which is where the critique group/partner thing comes in real handy. Am I successful? Depends on how you define the word, but in my mind, I’m having the time of my life and I can’t complain. I’ve signed numerous contracts and people are reading my work and enjoying it, so yeah, I think I’m a success. Maybe not like Nora Roberts or Mary Higgins Clark, but they had to start somewhere, too, right?

But the thing I’m most proud of? When someone asks me what I do, I say, “I’m an author.” And let me tell you, it’s the best feeling in the world. I can’t wait to see what comes next in my career. Writing rocks.


Or find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sandra.sookoo
Winner Takes All - Desert Breeze Publishing - available now!! http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com
Foodie's Guide to Kitchen Magic - Lyrical Press, Inc. - available now!! http://www.lyricalpress.com
The Haunting of Amelia Pritchart - available 9-30-09 at The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com


lastnerve said...

Hi Sandra,

I loved the blog today! I think what you wrote a lot of people need to read. It can be so easy to feel like giving up but you have to go on! I have heard so much about your books, especially Winner Takes All. I already have it now and can't wait to read it!

Cyber hugs

J Hali said...

Hey Sandi, great post. Did we meet on that long road? I'm glad you didn't give up. Because of you, I've discovered a whole new genre that I wouldn't have ventured into.

Thank you.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks Val! I can't wait for you to read it!

Thanks J! Glad I could broaden your horizons. :-)

Anonymous said...

Okay, this was better than "Climb Every Mountain" for me this morning, Sandra. I'm so glad I came by! It's so important to keep the enthusiasm alive. Congratulations on all your contracts and may you sign many, many more:>

Anonymous said...

Inspiring! It's nice to know you came to writing because external forces pushed you in that direction - your real estate career ended. Me too. Life's bumps pushed me to do what I've always wanted to do. Write. Yup, there's so much to learn. But what a fun ride!

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks Gem. I've always loved writing and I was never happy with the real estate job anyway, so it all worked out for the best :-)

Stacey'Slice said...

Well, I have to admit, it's nice bragging about my author-friend! When I was in line at Borders last week I was yakking w/ Ashley about my author friend, Sandra Sookoo, and how she has great work! The gals behind me and in front of me started listening to my convo.. so I tossed out my AUTHOR friend's info :)

I'm not an author, but I know it has to be rough and I'm glad you stuck with it!!!! :)

Sandra Sookoo said...

Hey Stace! I guess this author friend will have to float you some business cards and promo postcards LOL :-) Thanks for the plug!

Sandy said...


We never know for sure what's going to happen in this life. It took me 21 years to get published. There are a lot better writers out there than me who have quit.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sandi.

I started writing the same way. I wasn't working anymore and my husband had once said I could write a book because I read so much so I gave it a shot. Two and a half years later my first story is due to be released. It's been a long ride but satisfying ride.


Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks for stopping by Sandy. Glad you realized your dream.

Liena--oh I'd been writing since I was a ten year old. Even tried to get stuff published in my twenties but it wasn't to be. I've always written. I can't not write. Leaving the job was a catalyst that made me realize I wanted to be an author more than I wanted a dead end job. I didn't decide to write because of the job loss. I'd always written.

It was just a push into another stage :-)

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Lovely post, Sandi! You're right - one should never give up. Writing is a fire that burns inside of all of us authors, and we simply wouldn't exist without its flame.

Congrats on the upcoming releases, and hats off for having stuck to your game!